"I met Richard a little over a year ago. He came rolling into the Storehouse Pantry on his bicycle. As we carried his groceries out that first day, I asked him if he was sure that he would be able to carry all of that on his bike. I was worried for several reasons. One, he is not a young man, weathered skin, grey hair and in his late 50’s or early 60’s. Two, the bicycle is about as weathered as he is. It has a makeshift basket on the back and one on the front and almost as much duct tape as there is metal holding all the parts together.
He quickly assured me it wasn’t a problem and said, 'are you kidding, I throw papers for a living.' I told him, 'no way, you deliver papers from your bike?' Richard proudly beamed '7 days a week, rain, snow, sleet, or sunshine, just like the postman.' I was amazed and am still amazed a year later.
We see Richard once a month when he comes to the pantry for food. His meager pay from delivering newspapers isn’t enough to pay for housing, utilities, medicine, and food. At times he has a roommate to help pay rent but even with that, his paycheck isn’t enough to survive on in Conway. So he visits local food pantries to sustain himself. These pantries allow him to use his money to keep a roof over his head.
Richard is just a step away from falling back into homelessness at any given moment. If he gets sick or hurt then he can’t work. He delivers newspapers 7 days a week. One missed day is the difference between paying rent and being on the street again. He works hard. He pedals for miles and miles every day. Richard’s paper route takes him out of town, down busy roads and through flooded streets during heavy rains. A couple of months ago Richard came into the pantry with his pants all rolled up and secured with rubber bands. He told one of the volunteers that Conway’s streets were flooded and he was trying to keep his pants dry while he threw papers. He said 'a couple of times the water was rushing and I just couldn’t pedal through it. I had to get off and push, but I finished my route.'
This man is so resilient even when life is truly giving him lemons. We saw him recently and he broke down into tears. The place he has been renting became inundated with black mold and he lost everything that he owned. Richard has been trying to find an affordable place to live but there just are not very many low-income housing options in Conway.
He is afraid he is going to have to move back to western Arkansas where he came from several years ago. He doesn’t want to go back there; he doesn’t want to go back to that life. You see he came to Conway seeking a better life, a sustainable life.
--Laura King, Conway Ministry Center [09/08/2017]