He’s the guy asking for money on a downtown street corner

In this interview Richard Rajotte talks about how he puts a smile on people’s faces, worries about young kids on the street, and how newly laid off oil workers are seeking his advice.

I see you on the street and you seem to have a sense of kindness. How do you define kindness?

Kindness is when people just smile as they walk by. I put a smile on someone’s face on a daily basis, that is important to me and… Whether people donate money or not, what’s important is that they smile and acknowledge you and take the time to talk with you, because that is one of the plight of people that are on the street is that people tend to make you invisible.

It is very difficult to see a scowl on someone’s face and you say “come on you know, you don’t know my background,” so just because I am in this situation at the moment, doesn’t mean I was always here.

I was never always here. I have only been here for well longer than I really care because I’ve always worked all my life since I was 10-years-old.

So to be unemployed all of a sudden, it’s just something that is completely unnatural to me and its difficult to deal with and unfortunately what happens is as a little more time goes on it becomes that much harder to be gainfully employed, because employers will look at your resume and go, “Why this gap?”

“I have zero left in life but I still smile and that’s what it is all about”
– Richard Rajotte

So you try to fill those gaps but they do scrutinize your resume a lot and you sit there and go, “Ok,” so you start to lose motivation also. That is a hard thing, because you lose not just motivation, but you lose your self-esteem. When you lose your self-esteem, well that just snowballs. The next thing you know you just go, “I don’t know what to do,” and it becomes a tough cycle.

If you could tell everyone who passes by one thing about yourself: what would you want them to know?

It’s even on my business cards that I hand out, “Old school work ethic, go hard or go home.” Plain and simple that is my motto on my business card that I made up to hand out to people to potentially know someone as an employer.

What is advice that you want to give to the people who pass by you on the street?

Just keep smiling. Keep smiling, because there’s a lot of people right now probably two paychecks away from being on the corner with me.

They are all getting laid off in the oil and they aren’t going to know how to handle it you know. Fortunately and unfortunately I have been here for a while and I know how to deal with it in this situation.

I don’t let it bring me down 100 per cent, because you have to have a positive attitude and one of the biggest comments that I have ever gotten on the corner here is, “You’re always smiling, you’re always greeting people with a friendly grin and saying have a great day and the whole bit, you’re always asking questions”

That’s basically the one thing I want to say to people, “Just keep smiling because life will get better, it will always get better just keep a positive attitude, you’ll do great.”

Nobody ever wants to see negativity, I have zero left in life but I still smile and that’s what it is all about.

How would you identify yourself?

Eternal Optimist. I’m a Leo so that’s why even sitting on the corner here as a guy who panhandles for a living, at this point in my life, I tell people straight up. I have got the new teeth now, because they were bad and that made life difficult for me for a while.

I always remain an optimist and always have tolerance for everybody. When I hear people on the corner here sit there and go, “All these foreigners…” It makes me go nuts, because we are all equal.

Everybody is an equal individual.

How do you think you change the lives of people that you interact with, on the street specifically?

It’s the young ones on the street that I worry about the most, because they are 15 or 16 years old, and they have strayed from what they are supposed to be doing. They are the ones that I have always cared about the most because they are the ones that get into the drugs and bad habits and the whole bit.

“You’re always going to need your networks to survive in life”
-Richard Rajotte

This isn’t the end of your life, you have to keep focused whether it is through education or getting away from the street scene and the whole bit. I get really, really sad when I see young ones on the street because they are so easily manipulated, so naïve.

I have seen people that are 15, 16-years-old, they take these designer drugs, they call them, and they go out in the left field and never come back. All of a sudden their brains just go to Jello and that’s really sad. So I try to steer people away from that, try to give them experience that I’ve had without lecturing them.

If there’s a way where I can ever help people, it’s not just even the street kids, it’s [the] working that are getting laid off and the whole bit and I’m surprised they come to me and ask for advice. “What am I going to do?” I go, “Well, ok you got a computer, you’ve got contacts and the whole bit.”

Always network and see how you can change that because you will need it one day. Believe it or not everyone, it doesn’t matter from CEO on down, you’re always going to need your networks to survive in life.

criabko@cjournal.ca

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