Background info: For my journalism class, we were asked to get out of our comfort zone and listen to people within the community. We called this a listening exercise because it gets us away from phone interviews. It gets us to talk to strangers around us. The key for any good journalist is to listen; this exercise helped with that.
Growing up, parents always tell their kids not to talk to strangers. Journalists are taught to do the exact opposite. We are told to listen to those around us and investigate. We are told to talk to strangers. So, Mom and Dad, sorry in advance for talking to strangers.
On Massachusetts Street in downtown Lawrence there is a wide variety of people: families, grade school kids, college students, street musicians and the homeless. To get out of my comfort zone I talked to a homeless, street musician named Dutch. Now normally, I wouldn’t sit and talk to a homeless person on the street. Going to talk to a random person, homeless or not, can be a challenge on its own; however, the assignment said to be out of our comfort zone so I did just that. I did bring my roommate with me, just to be safe, but she stayed across the sidewalk while Dutch and I talked.
Dutch was sitting on the corner of 9th Street and Massachusetts Street playing his guitar. He was missing the middle finger on his left hand and had tattoos on his left arm (one of which was a robot dog his son drew for him). He had grimy, dirty hands, but dressed in a black button-up vest and a black fedora. After talking to him, I found out he is originally from Virginia but came to Lawrence to be closer to his two sons, has played guitar for 16 years and has traveled from state to state for two years. His favorite place to play street music is in New Orleans because the people are supportive and encouraging.
Now, Dutch is at a point in his life where he knew he needed to step up and take more responsibility. He said that when he was younger he lived life by the motto of do what you want. Now, he lives life by a different philosophy- obedience of the Ten Commandments.
Dutch brought up religion a lot in our conversation. He said that as you grow older faith is more important. Dutch tries to follow the Ten Commandments and attends church twice a week. He said, “It is my responsibility to go to church to encourage young people.”
Taking the first step to talk to Dutch was the hardest. After that, conversation flowed. I could only stay for about 30 minutes though because I started to feel uncomfortable. After about 10 minutes of talking, two other homeless people came up to Dutch and I asking for money or a “smoke.” One kept going up to my roommate as well telling her how pretty she was and trying to make conversation. Yes, we went during broad daylight and there were many people around us, but things started to feel uncomfortable to the point where we couldn’t stay any longer.