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Eric Colbert: the power of a smile

Thu, Oct 11, 2012

A smile can go a long way. That statement is certainly true for Eric Colbert. “There’s something about a smile that makes me feel good,” said Colbert. “Smiling keeps me from seeing my problems.”

There’s a saying that a fake smile can hide a million tears. In Colbert’s case, he doesn’t have any tears to hide. Nor does he ever put on a fake smile. “I always smile with sincerity,” said Colbert. “Every smile I see makes me happy. I don’t even think I know what a fake smile looks like,” laughed Colbert.

“Seeing people smile at me takes my mind off the bad things in life.” He has his fair share of things he likes to take his mind off of. He has gone to jail, has little contact with his family, and recently lost the woman with whom he had a child. Colbert went to jail for motor vehicle theft 20 years ago and only sees his family on rare occasions. His daughter is currently in the custody of her grandmother.

As a kid Colbert didn’t have a father figure. “I didn’t have anyone giving me advice at an early age,” mentioned Colbert. Colbert slowly got dragged into gangs and drugs as a teenager. “I was doing bad things not because I wanted to, but because I had to.”

Despite all of these hardships Colbert has had to face, he still keeps his head high. “I always tell myself to keep going. Don’t give up. That’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given to me,” said Colbert. “Whether it’s freezing cold in winter or burning hot in summer, I have to keep going. Even though I’m homeless and don’t have much, I have a lot to live for in life.”

Colbert remembers when StreetWise was a newspaper. Eric Colbert first became a vendor in the early 1990s, but only sold StreetWise for a few years. Upon coming across hard times, Colbert has returned to StreetWise. “I’ve only been back for a few weeks now, but everything is all coming back to me.”

Colbert often goes to church to feel good. “I love going to church because of all of the people who smile. The pastors, the ushers, everyone is constantly smiling.” Colbert has been going to church ever since he was a child. “It somewhat reminds me of my childhood,” he said.

Through selling StreetWise, Colbert hopes to afford stable housing and to be able to provide for his daughter. “It’s very hard for me to not be able to provide for my daughter,” he said. “I want to be able to bring her to school and buy her a bicycle. Unfortunately I can’t do either of those things at the moment.”

So if you ever do happen to see Eric Colbert walking down the street or selling StreetWise, make sure to give him your best smile. You never know, your smile may do more than brighten his day.

Written by Sam McGarvey,
StreetWise Editorial Intern

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