The Big Issue


I walk daily through the Meadows at a leisurely pace on my way to work. In the morning, come rain or hail or wind or snow (or the unlikely sunny spell), you will see John standing at the crossroads in Middle Meadow Walk. Actually, even before seeing him, you can be sure you will hear him shouting loudly his pitch to sell the Big Issue.


In my personal experience he's the hardest working Big Issue vendor. I don't know what time he shows up on his spot in the Meadows, but surely by the time I see him (I wake up at a leisurely time), I reckon he has done a fair amount of work. Which, in his case, can be measured in decibels.


John's favourite lines are: "Don't be shy, give it a try, buy the Big Issue" and "Try the rest, then try the best, buy the Big Issue". Around Christmas he introduced the variation "Don't be like Scrooge, buy the Big Issue" which, if you stress the u sound in both lines, it almost rhymes. So, by means of his voice and his presence, he gets to sell a good number of copies.


I think that the Big Issue it's one of the best magazines around. One of my favourite parts is in the last page, where the vendors recount their story (I'm happy to see that John's story is among those that can be found online). Many of the vendors come from quite normal backgrounds, not particularly difficult or deprived; however, because of some adverse circumstance they have found themselves in a failed marriage, with alcohol or drug addictions, or without a job. Homelessness is often the next step in this negative cycle.


Despite the huge losses these people have experienced and the pains they endured, thanks to schemes like the Big Issue, they are often able to get their confidence back and reconstruct their life. Their hopes for the future are often simple and concrete: being able to see their children again, being able to afford an accommodation, learning the skills that would get them a different job. One of the wishes of this week's featured vendor is to play in theHomeless World Cup, which sounds like a great event and a fantastic dream.


I tend to buy the Big Issue quite regularly (avoiding John is very hard!), but even if I don't it seems that saying hi is enough for them. And they are usually very polite!

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