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Greta Rybus

Greta Rybus is a photojournalist and photo editor living in Portland. She started her blog, “Who I Met," as a way to begin juicy conversations with interesting people she meets. The blog has migrated with her from Montana, Europe, and, finally, to her new and dearly-loved home in Maine. You can see more of her work at www.gretarybus.com

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Who I Met with Greta Rybus
Posted: November 26, 2013

Talking about gratitude in downtown Portland

 Happy Thanksgiving!

This week, I decided to spend an hour meeting strangers in downtown Portland, and talking with them about gratitude. Despite being bitterly cold, almost everyone I stopped took the time to talk with me, to share their stories and their perspective towards gratitude. And for that, I am thankful. Among so many things this year, I am grateful for the people I meet who allow me into their lives and answer my questions candidly. And I’m grateful for you, my dear readers.

 

 

VANESSA GILLIAM

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

My kids. My family. We are in the shelter, so…. I didn’t get a Thanksgiving basket this year, I didn’t get anything. We just came from DHS and who knows if anything is going to happen there. Food stamps are lower this month because of the whole economic… crap. It’s discouraging, but you’ve got to be grateful for what you have.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, BUT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

Many, many, many things. Apartments. Landlords. Having to live with different families. Everyone has their own way. We are a nice family that likes to help everybody. We help everybody but now we are getting the help that we need in return. So, it’s been discouraging the past couple months because we can’t do much for anyone else.

TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

I guess getting into the shelter. We came here over the summer. We had been out of town. And when we came here, we weren’t residents of Portland. And it took us three weeks, almost a month, of backpacking and going to friends houses until we even got in the shelter. I guess being able to have a place to put our stuff. And the kids are okay, they’re back in school. You know, that’s really something right there for me.

 

CARLOS BERMUDEZ

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

 I’m grateful for learning new things. I learned so much, like stuff that happens throughout the year teaches you so much. It’s kind of cool. You learn to be grateful for everything every day.

TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

 My girlfriend, I would say. I basically am by myself, so every day when I come home, when I’d see here I’d just know that there is someone there for me.

 

EMILY WAID-JONES

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

I am incredibly grateful that my mom is helping me pay for grad school. Because I wouldn’t be able to go otherwise.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, BUT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

 I’m always pissed off that even though heat is included in my rent, they never actually turn it on. So it’s always really cold in my apartment. I’m grateful that they pay for it, but I’m like, “You guys could turn it on, okay? Like, sometimes?”

TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

 I do baby Roller Derby with Portland’s Derby Lite. I love that I do that every week. You do all the drills but you don’t scrimmage. It’s roller skating for big kids.

 

JOE MALONE

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

This year? Every year I’m grateful for health.

 WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, BUT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

 This year, I spent a year reading books on happiness. It was interesting. It started out by doing 30 days without complaining about anything. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. You catch yourself every few minutes. It taught me a lot, about how you complain about little things all day. All adding up to your own unhappiness. I absolutely started to feel much better.

TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

All the time! It’s not a particular moment. Climbing, walking. I had a grandchild this year. All kinds of wonderful things that just happen constantly.

 

 

MICHAEL MCLAUGHLIN

WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

I have a full-time job. And, a lot of really cool friends that always help me when I need it. And a house to live in. And, I’m not dead.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, BUT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

 Well, it’s difficult to be grateful and live in this country, although I acknowledge that I have a lot of privileges especially as a white male living in a Western Country like the United States. But it gets very difficult to appreciate giving our current political client, but I try to be appreciative around this sort of holiday given the racist implications that go along with it. I try to be grateful that I am not destitute or living in a country where things like dysentery or cholera are major problems.

 TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

 Kind of like every day! But a few months ago, I had some trouble with a landlord, and my and my roommates had to move out with very short notice. We were very lucky to find a new place in the same neighborhood with reasonable rent, that we could move into immediately. It’s actually a much better space for us.

 

JOAN KAZILIOINS

 WHAT ARE YOU PARTICULARLY GRATEFUL FOR THIS YEAR?

 This year, I would have to say my family. I know that’s generic, but we just had our Thanksgiving last Sunday. My sister has been living in Florida, and we just celebrated her 18th-month sobriety. I’m going to start crying if I talk about it! But basically the biggest miracle of my entire family has been just her getting better. I get to go down and see her in Florida all winter. I went three times last winter and stayed with her. My entire family, we were basically in turmoil for 15, 20 years. And in the past few months it’s been… I’ve never seen her so happy, so healthy. We’ve always been best friends: me and my mom and my sister. We basically all have the same voice. If she is visiting, and we answer the phone they never know who it is. So I’m thankful for health and happiness and my sister and my family. It’s awesome, it’s inspirational. I just love her so much.

 WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO BE GRATEFUL FOR, BUT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

 Yes. Being less… possessions oriented. I have two jobs and they are both retail. I get fixated on things! What’s new, what do I think that I need versus what I actually need. So I have not been shopping as much as I always do. I used to buy something new every shift, when I first started working at Material Objects. So now, I put it on hold for a couple days. If I still really, really love it, I will buy it. I make a line of jewelry and scarves that I sell. I’m working on focusing  on handmade things or used thing rather than shopping.

 TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT WITHIN THIS PAST YEAR WHEN YOU REMEMBER BEING STRUCK WITH GRATITUDE.

 Again, family pops into my mind. So, so grateful for the health of my family. Growing up, everything was just so painful and so hard. Alcoholism runs in my family, and to be free of that, finally, is overwhelmingly powerful.

 

 A few resources for helping out Portlanders during the upcoming holidays:
Preble Street Resource Center
United Way of Greater Portland
Good Shepherd Food Bank

More ideas about how we can help? Leave ’em in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

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