National Day Of Listening

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For the National Day of Listening project, contributor Katie Davis interviews a neighborhood acquaintance, Carlton Davis. The two struck up a friendship when they met outside the local Safeway. The two struck up a friendship when they met outside the local Safeway.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

This Friday, after the turkey and the football and the pumpkin pie, we're going to be marking the National Day of Listening, and we're inviting you to do the same. Sit down with friends or loved ones, turn on a tape recorder, ask them to talk about their lives.

That's exactly what Katie Davis did. She's a longtime contributor to this program. She sat down with a man she only knew by name. Carlton Davis waits outside her local grocery store in Washington, D.C. and helps people carry their bags home. Here's Carlton telling Katie his story.

Mr. CARLTON DAVIS: You know, I came from a big family, okay, a family of 21. And my mom had two sets of twins, one set of triplets. I'm one of the triplets sitting here today, you know. So, never got one thing you asked Santa Claus for. You know, I always wondered why. Well, it's too many of us for mom and dad to really play that Santa Claus role.

Every year as a kid I would ask for the same thing, you know, a Hopalong Cassidy outfit and two white pearl handled guns and a black cowboy outfit and the white hat. That's all I ever wanted. I'm still waiting.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. DAVIS: So, you know, that was tough, you know. I never got the education that I really wanted, that some of my friends got that I always wanted. I was real - very slow in school. So I never got no help for that, and you know, all these things live with me.

You know, after mom and dad died, really, I know the day when I came up here, I brought my problems with me. I never did anything about them. So that's why they escalated to drinking and smoking until I really got sick and tired of being sick and tired, you know.

I finally had my last drink in December 17th, 1987. So you know, okay, it's - I have a life that money can't buy. You know, I don't know anything that I need that God hasn't provided for me since I've been sober, and that's why, you know, I give myself for people. You know, I try to help somebody, you know. And, hey, this, I mean, I'm living a good life, you know.

DAVIS: Carlton, how did you learn to do this, to take care of people? Why do you think this has become sort of your job, really?

Mr. DAVIS: Well, you know, it's something I've been doing all my life. You know, what I say to the kid, especially if I see him being this nice kid with somebody else and that changes to a lot of foul talking, you know. And then when I catch them by their self, I say, I saw you with some of your friends, some of your new friends. And I heard you saying some words I never heard you say before. I said, that ain't the kid I pictured you to be. I said, I've been bragging about how nice you is.

And a lot of them, they want to do the right thing but don't have nobody to give them a nudge, you know. And I give them the high five, you know, and I talk a little nice talk with them.

You know, some of them know me by name, some of them don't. Some of them call me that speaking man, some of them call me that man that stands on the corner all the time. I take it as a, you know, compliment because they've never seen me doing wrong. They always see me help somebody, you know, and that's what I do, Katie, yeah.

NORRIS: Carlton Davis, recorded by Katie Davis, for the National Day of Listening. Katie has been gathering stories in her Washington neighborhood for over a decade.

Find out how to record your interview at nationaldayoflistening.org.

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