Last week, I was on a walk while on vacation near San Francisco. It was an extremely pleasant day. Nevertheless, one person after the other walked past me without saying a word. Everyone seemed preoccupied.
Finally, a man got out of a truck and greeted me.
“It’s another beautiful day!” he said. I agreed. Then he added, “It’s why we live here.” He seemed pleased with his statement.
I thought to myself, Really, you chose your home based on the weather?
Maybe that was just something to say to a stranger, but it got me thinking about why we chose to live in Memphis. I doubt it is because of the weather, and there are certainly other places that are more aesthetically beautiful. We don’t have mountains and we don’t have an ocean; we have a big, muddy river.
So why choose Memphis for our home?
To start with, I cannot imagine walking down the street here and not being spoken to, stranger or not. People here know that our greatest strength is our connection to each other. When I came to Memphis 30 years ago to start the Church Health Center, I was a stranger, relying completely on the goodwill of those around me to help establish our health ministry. Yet I was embraced and the Center has flourished.
I often say that Memphis has two things in great abundance: poverty and religion. Both, I think, shape the fabric of our city and why I for one chose to call Memphis home. While great poverty is not something to strive for, its presence here makes us all grateful for what we do have. I am privileged to have spent years with people who have little material wealth but who have used their spiritual capital to find peace and strength of character in a complex world.
When asked, “How are you?,” they answer without thinking:
Fine and blessed.
And they are.
As for religion, where else is one of the first questions you are asked, “Where do you go to church?”
Even if your answer is Temple Israel, “church” is just code for how you connect with something greater than yourself. I realize many among us believe they have a unique pathway to God, but I am so glad to live in a place where who I am is not just defined by what I have.
While many will quickly point out that the river, our four seasons, and fishing and hunting and our sports teams make Memphis a desirable home on many levels, I chose to live here because I have found love and a true sense of purpose in this big small town.
If you love Memphis, Memphis will love you.
Are you in New York City? I encourage you to connect with Choose901 this week to learn more about making Memphis home. Click here to learn more.