Strangers don’t often approach each other on the streets in downtown Detroit, so when I sat down next to Erin Swofford on a park bench, he was taken a bit by surprise. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind talking with me for a few minutes, about himself, what he does and who he is.
His face filled with curiosity and, quite honestly, maybe some fear, too. However, once he started talking, he never stopped. It was like he was waiting for someone to ask him about his day, about his life and what he was feeling on the inside.
The first thing he told me was how his name was spelled. “E-R-I-N, normally that’s not how the guy’s name is spelled but I have a fraternal twin whose name is Erica and I think my mother wanted the names to be the same,” he says. “Erin is an Irish name, and I don’t feel like I have that Irish look, so I’m in the process of changing my name.”
I asked Swofford what he was doing in the city: “I grew up in Detroit, it’s my home; today I am just enjoying myself and the weather around.”
He went on to tell me he was also in the city straighten out a misdemeanor. “I want to own up to things in my life and create a better life for myself and hopefully have a family of my own one day," he says. "I want to travel, see the world; I just had myself a birthday, I’m 31 now, I want to see Paris, Australia, and that biggest mall in Canada, you know.”
While I'm not sure which mall Erin hopes to make pilgrimage to, he did seem generally hopeful for the future.
“I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth,” Swofford says, discussing some plans he has for a business. “Movies Near You, I’ll call it.” Beaming with pride, he adds, "I want to have the luxuries of seeing movies, big movies, everywhere and have them be something everyone can afford.”
I asked Swofford what makes him happy and he says, “The day I was accepted to St. Claire Community College, because I was the first person in my family to go to college.” He told me about how his grandmother raised his older brother and his younger brother has been in and out of jail, though even despite the hardships, he put on brave face.
“I fear I will never be able to live the life I want to live, my family isn’t the closest, so without that support I don’t feel like I can accomplish what I to accomplish,” Swofford says.
Erin Swoffordtaught me what a simple smile and friendly conversation can do for someone’s happiness.
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