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Arnold Donaldson: Moving along the stepping stones

Wed, Feb 20, 2013

Arnold Donaldson

Looking aross the street corners of Chicago, you would easily find StreetWise vendors of all walks of life, magazines in hand, with wonderful and rich life stories to tell. But if you happen to find yourself near the corner of Clark and Diversey, in Lakeview, you just might encounter one Arnold Donaldson, whose profound wisdom, compassionate mission, and exuberant happiness astonish as much as they uplift.

“Everything is a process in which you have to move one step at a time,” Arnold said. “Life is all about goals: little, small goals and accomplishments that you make. That’s how you build—a little bit at a time.” Once struggling through the realities of homelessness and drug abuse for nearly two decades, Arnold today is a self-renovated man, the product of his own focus and dedication to his church, to StreetWise, and to his books.

“StreetWise is a place to come and better yourself,” Arnold said. “[It acts] like a stepping stone: you’re down now, but you step a little bit at a time up, up, and up.” After six years of working with StreetWise, Arnold proudly holds not only a network of loyal customers, but of loyal friends whom Arnold knows on a first-name basis. Furthermore, he is off the streets, with his sights set on eventually becoming an entrepreneur.

On top of the Bible, Arnold is an avid reader of self-improvement books. He has pulled from them lessons on how to live the life he envisions: as a good citizen who helps others.

“The world’s all about trying to help one another. That’s the rent we pay on this earth,” Arnold said. “The first thing I can do is try to better myself as a person.” In addition, Arnold strives to become a man in control of his destiny, ever ready to grow and succeed in the face of a challenge.

“Think of life as water,” Arnold said. “Water that’s still is going to get stagnated; it’s going to start stinking, bringing in insects all around. But if you go to running water, that water’s going to be clean, and pretty, and good…[like the water,] we just have to keep moving in life. I welcome adversity, because adversity is what’s going to help me grow.”

But Arnold keeps his ambitions in check with his humility. “I used to want everything right now…[but] I have to work on things [slowly]. It’s a stepping-stone, because one might not be ready for certain things they want out of life. You’ve got to grow with things, and grow with success, and live for today, and not for tomorrow.”

Arnold’s reading list has been pivotal to his life’s philosophy. “I read plenty of books…[They are part of] what motivates me.” He keeps the lessons of his books near his heart. What makes Arnold’s efforts even more extraordinary is that he could not read until age 15. Despite such an obstacle, Arnold immersed himself in meaningful literature that, with StreetWise and his church by his side, allowed him to move his life in a positive direction. Arnold now reads often, sings in his church choir, dances to his heart’s content, and lives in the moment.

“Life is a wonderful thing. There are two things you can do in it: you can either live it, or you let it pass by. So I choose to live my life, today.” Get busy livin’, indeed.

Written by Matthew Stone,
StreetWise Contributor

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