Derrick Martin wants to see people smile.

He wants people to be happy, worry-free and appreciative.

He wants people to enjoy life, like he does.

And that showed Monday afternoon. Martin, 46, was the gatekeeper for the VIP parking lot at Freedom Hall. His big laugh bounced off the Land Rovers, heavy duty Chevrolet pickup trucks and Audi sedans that pulled in one after another.

In order to park in Martin’s lot, guests had to show a special printout and their names had to be listed on the paper he carried on a clipboard.

Jacob Ryan |

Derrick Martin checks vehicles for VIP parking access at Freedom Hall.

“Everybody else, I have to send away,” he said.

Some tried unsuccessfully to work their way in. And why not? The lot was just a short walk from the front entrance to the arena where President Donald Trump would soon take the stage.

Thousands of people flocked to Freedom Hall Monday evening to see Trump. The line of people stretched for hundreds of yards.

From his post, Martin could see the crowds and hear the chants. But he didn’t pay either much mind. He was there not to judge or protest or even support the president. He was there to do his job.

Martin is a proud Louisville resident. He was born and raised and still calls the city’s West End his home. The area gets a bad rap, he said, but he doesn’t kid himself — it’s in bad shape.

Boarded up houses, vacant lots and gun violence burdens the city’s western side, he said.

“They just let it go,” Martin said.

Addressing those issues would, for him, be the first step in fulfilling Trump’s promise to make America great again.

Build up communities, not walls, Martin said. Strengthen families, not divisions, he said.

Sweat gathers on Martin’s head and he hustles to another vehicle seeking entrance to the VIP lot. He looks for the printout, checks the name and swings away the barrier.

He’s not a rich man, but he’s got a job. He said he’s made mistakes, but he’s learned from them.

He loves the west end, but he’s not tied to it. He dreams of acres of land, a farm with a house smack in the middle.

“And just be to myself,” he said.

An expensive dream, perhaps, but a dream nonetheless. And in the meantime, he’s got his eye on a startup, of sorts, that he likens to Uber for the elderly. He takes older residents to the store if they need a ride or to the park if it’s a nice day.

“If they need a ride, I tell them to call me,” he said. “Whatever you can afford.”

He doesn’t do it for the pay. He does it so he can be a benefit to someone else, so he can bring joy to a stranger — that, he said, is what makes him happiest.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.