Making a Difference With a Simple Idea


Twenty-eight years ago, a nurse and I saw 12 patients at 1210 Peabody. Since then, the Church Health Center has grown to handle more than 42,000 patient visits at our clinic each year.

Last week, we celebrated a very special day at the Church Health Center. On September 1, our organization turned 28.

Twenty-eight years of providing healthcare to the working uninsured of Shelby County, Tennessee. Twenty-eight years of helping our neighbors live healthier lives. Twenty-eight years of filling the gaps in healthcare. Linda, a Center staffer in our 1210 building, brought in a nice spread of ice cream to help us celebrate.

But for me, the day was essentially pretty ordinary. I saw patients. I went to meetings. I tried to raise money to help sustain our ministry. This is just what I do.

The previous Saturday wasn’t so ordinary, though. I spoke at the TEDx Memphis event. Now, I am no stranger to public speaking. I run my mouth every day and have spoken to audiences much larger than the group assembled for TEDx. I’m a preacher, for Pete’s sake! But without a doubt, I have never been so nervous as I was when I rehearsed my talk and when I finally took the stage. It was like giving an 18-minute soliloquy in a play.

In order not to mess up, I had a few notes written on my hand. I didn’t need them, but it was a nice crutch.

talk to the hand

Gratefully, I wasn’t the only one who had anxiety over my TED experience. Even my friend Rob Carter, the CIO for FedEx, was nervous and talks to groups of 5,000 on a regular basis.

What I talked about was in some ways a summary of where the Center has been the last 28 years, but more importantly, where I hope we will be going for the next 28.

I realize I discuss our new home at Crosstown a lot – and of course, I was able to bring it up  in the Q&A session after my talk – but it is the ideas of the Church Health Center that make us who we are. In my TEDx talk, I emphasized a better way to care for people’s health based on the virtues of gentleness, kindness, compassion, humility, patience and love. In today’s healthcare landscape, it’s often difficult to see those virtues in action, but I’m convinced that they make life worth living and that the Center has found a way to care for people that embraces these virtues in all that we do.

I took a cool splash in the dunk tank at Rock for Love this year. It's a pretty refreshing way to raise funds for the Center!

I took a cool splash in the dunk tank at Rock for Love this year. It’s a pretty refreshing way to raise funds for the Center!

So while we didn’t have grand plans for a big Church Health Center birthday celebration – last weekend’s Rock for Love benefit was enough – we do have plans to build on what we have learned over the years we have been open. My TEDx talk tried to capture this. If you didn’t get to see it in person, it should be on the web sometime next week. I’ll be sure to post it on my Facebook page. (Click here to follow.)

But until then, remember that it’s the ideas that make the difference. Let your virtues – or the notes scribbled on the palm of your hand – be your guide.


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