a photo of eastern market
photo by AgnosticPreachersKid on Wkimedia commons.com

If you ask Stephen Thomas his favorite place in D.C. he will tell you it is Eastern Market. There, he sells Street Sense and his outgoing personality allows him to engage in conversations with people from various backgrounds, learning from differences and discovering common bonds.“I meet a lot of people from all different countries. They tell me about their culture and what’s going on in their government,” Thomas said. “I’m learning a lot just by being out there communicating with people while selling the paper.”While at the market, Thomas, 24, looks for opportunities to help people while also earning money. He sees himself as a “people person” who is able to capitalize on his friendliness by making money helping vendors unpack and set up their products. Eastern Market provides a change in environment from the Southeast where Thomas and his three sisters were raised by their grandmother, and where he currently lives with his aunt. He considers himself to be homeless because of the housing uncertainty he faces, but is thankful he has not needed stay in a shelter.“My living situation is not stable. At any given time my aunt will put me out and I have to go look for somewhere to lay my head.”Despite the ups and downs, he cred-its his supportive family with helping him make it through a difficult childhood. His mother died from AIDS when he was just six years old, and his father died from the same disease while in prison when Thomas was 12. There were times during his adolescence when his grandmother could tell he was struggling with his emotions and offered to get him counseling, but Thomas said he always fought against it.“Not having a bond with my mother and father growing up was hard. But, for some reason I thought I could deal with it on my own. I had a lot of anger at a young age. I would get into fights, skip school and do a lot of things that I shouldn’t have done.”The importance of having parents involved in a child’s life has taken on new meaning to Thomas now that his girlfriend is three months pregnant and he is expecting his first child in December.“Once I found out I was going to be a father, it made me realize that I have no time to waste. Every day I need to do something productive to better myself,” Thomas said. He is looking for full-time employment while also pursuing his GED. He plans on enrolling in a trade school to study carpentry, a skill he picked up in the past while working odd jobs in construction, or to become a truck driver. He plans to instill the importance of education in his child and looks forward to helping with homework and school projects.“I want to teach my child from an early age to focus on school. I want my child to go to college and start a new tradition in my family where all the kids go to college.”Thomas says he has developed a new interest in learning and expanding his thinking. Reading and writing have be-come his hobbies, and he hopes to con-tribute articles to the paper about his favorite subject: sports.Thomas says he follows all sports except for soccer. Like many Washingtonians, he is a fan of the Redskins and the Wizards. But unlike most fans, his love for the Nationals and the Capitals is displayed in ink. He has a tattoo of the Nationals logo on his right upper arm and the Capitals logo on his chest.Looking towards the future, Thomas remains optimistic, believing that he is in control of his own destiny.“If you are motivated and determined, you can overcome your situation no matter what it is,” Thomas says. “But you have to want it. You can’t just sit and talk about it, you have to get up and push yourself to do it.”