Crossing The Bridge, on purpose.
I waited for a sunny Thursday. It came, and it was glorious! The sky was a brilliant blue, the temperature was just right. The sun shone bright, bouncing of the walls of the Pyramid, sharing the skyline with the “M” bridge. The weather app on my phone displayed a red exclamation point–”Flood advisory continues for the Mississippi River at Memphis.” I’ve seen Memphis like this before, with my own eyes. The river creeping past its borders, surrounding trees that are normally many many feet from the river’s edge. What I got to see next was not so ordinary for me.
The details of an ordinary day for me may vary from yours, but the big picture is about the same. I wake up after a (usually) restful 8 hours of sleep. My head pops up from my soft pillow when kids come in to ask for breakfast. We choose from an assortment of foods to eat. We pick out our clothes from a full closet, get on with our day and do a lot of thinking about ourselves. What we want, and how to get it. What if we took out the part about 8 hours of sleep. Not so bad? Well what about the pillow? Or maybe the pantry full of food, or the closet full of clothes? Not quite as comfortable, huh? Not for one day of my life have I ever been able to say that I was without those things. I’ve always had four walls surrounding me, with a nice little mailbox outside collecting my mail. If someone needed to find me, all they have to do is look up my address and I’ll be there. It’s my home. I have not had much contact with someone who considers themselves homeless. But when I have, I have to admit, it has not been comfortable. Until this past Thursday. I got to spend time with people who at first glance seemed to have nothing in common with me. But as the saying goes: ”They put their pants on one leg at a time.” And while I don’t have a clue as to where that saying came from, I do know where this one comes from: ”The rich and the poor have this in common: the Lord made them both.” Proverbs 22:2.
I am sheltered. They are homeless. Now I know them, and they know me. There are no excuses, no room for judgement, just the need to live On Purpose and make a difference no matter how small. Look at these photographs. Study them. See how God has made the people in these photos with the same intricate details that he made you with, and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself (Mark 12:31). Let’s bridge the gap. Read on to find out how…
Interested in more about The Bridge? Here is a short interview I had with James, one of the co-founders of the street paper.
1. Tell us a little about The Bridge.
The Bridge is the first street newspaper in Memphis. Following other models across the country, it acts a voice for the homeless while simultaneously providing a source of income. The Bridge is a newspaper about the issues surrounding homelessness, and has pieces written by people experiencing homelessness as well as staff writers. Currently and formerly homeless vendors, who have been trained in selling, then buy the paper from us for $0.25 and sell it on the streets for $1.00.
Our first issue, themed “Origins”, is on the streets now, and our second paper will be out the 25th!
2. Why “The Bridge” as the newspaper’s name?
Great question. We decided on The Bridge because of its metaphorical implications – that is, we aim to serve as a bridge between two disconnected communities, the sheltered and the homeless.
3. Why did the team of creators of The Bridge decide to do this?
Being non-Memphian college students, we were taken aback by the visible homeless population in Memphis. After a chance encounter with The Contributor, the wildly successful street newspaper in Nashville, we decided that Memphis should have something similar, if not better. We set out to create a platform that could humanize the marginalized homeless population of Memphis by providing this opportunity to share their written and artistic voices while also earning them an income.
4. What have you seen as a result of this newspaper?
We are only in our third week of live sales, but we have already seen several things develop because of this newspaper. Specifically, we have seen an enormous positive reaction from the community, with so many organizations of so many different kinds of people offering us their advice and resources. We have also had positive feedback from our vendors, with many vendors returning weekly to buy more copies.
5. How have you changed since this paper hit the streets?
Our organization from the start has been one that is based on adapting. No matter how well we plan for the future, once things are live they do not unfold the way we pictured them. Our success has been based on fixing things on the fly, and having the paper go live was no different.
6. What’s the next step or goal for the paper?
To further expand and to develop into a bi-monthly publication.
7. How can others help?
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for extra hands to help run our training sessions and interviews.