INSP Advent Calendar: Christmas Eve

In the final window of this year’s #INSPadvent Billy tells us, “It’s all about love.” We couldn’t think of a better message. Merry Christmas, everyone.

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Street Roots vendor Billy Meyer. Credit: Cole Merkel

Billy Meyer, 42, Portland, USA

“I grew up in a very diverse family in Kansas City,” Billy says. “I had an older brother who was Welsh. And then my little sister, she was from Nigeria. My adopted father was half Chinese, half American, and my adopted mother was full-blooded Chinese. They had a [biological] daughter who later died of muscular dystrophy. I vaguely remember her; she was my big sister.”

When Billy told his adopted parents he was gay, they were fully supportive: “They became the president and vice president of PFLAG – Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. They helped get the chapter started, there in Kansas City.”

He says that, because of his upbringing, “I love all cultures. I was raised to love everybody, no matter who they were.”

As an adult, Billy went on to earn degrees in journalism and criminal justice and served in the U.S. Army. Billy lost his husband in 2014 and is currently experiencing homelessness. He has been selling Street Roots in Portland on and off since 2012; most recently since July 2015.

What is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

When my [late] husband Rodney and I moved back to Seattle in 2011 the SUV we had was not designed to go through snow because it was a Florida vehicle. So he bought me a pickup truck. That was the best Christmas present I got because it was just spur of the moment. It made me love him so much more because of all the surprises he popped at me and I loved it all.

How do you plan to spend Christmas this year?

Hopefully in a place and not alone. My plan is to have a place where I can actually cook. I do the same thing I do at Thanksgiving – which is Cornish game hens. Then to liven it up I have my own pie recipes, just your basic Christmas trimmings. And you’ve got to have your favourite Christmas TV shows. My favourite is It Came Upon a Midnight Clear starring Mickey Rooney. I also like Santa Claus The Movie.

Do you have a special Christmas message for your customers?

Love one another. That’s all that matters, just love. Without love there’s nothing. I’m Buddhist but I still celebrate the holidays. It’s all about love to me.