Leave Your Mark on Memphis  by Pat Sawtelle

I eat lunch out most days a week and always find watching people interesting. However, what is more interesting are the overheard conversations. From sports, to religion, to family, and work they are like snap shots of life.

I’ve notice more people praying over their food in recent years, more people talking about pressures of work as they try to balance home life. More late life people discussing raising their grandchildren or supporting their out of work children.

A recent discussion among a few elderly patrons discussing the life challenges faced by grandchildren made me think of my own life and my hometown. One grandchild needed to get a job, but required a car before he could. The conversation included which family member might help.  Another story covered a child, amazed by the impact of procrastination by fellow students. How could they help the child learn that people face life differently?

I love these snips and each reminds me that life’s challenges, while different, are daily and in many cases involve belief and a bit of faith. Belief not in the religious sense, but a belief that we each deserve and can achieve some happiness in life. Faith that out there somewhere is a resource to help us if we are willing to ask for help.

It is often said that Memphis is the biggest small town you will ever live in. If you need a resource for anything, someone can hook you up. Along the way, someone you encounter will be a man / woman, you knew growing up, or they are the spouse / child of a parent or friend. Each of these connections reminds you that it takes a community not only to raise a child, but also to support you every day of your life as they offer you a hand up.

When my children were young, I lived in a wonderful neighborhood filled with old-fashioned beliefs that we were not just neighbors… we were family. Young, old, single, married, multi-raced, all together – a wonderful family. We guided, encouraged, punished, and taught our children together. We traded great cooking like a loaf of homemade bread for a homemade pound cake. When we picked turnip greens, another would cook them with a big smoked turkey leg and split the resulting goodness. When I couldn’t teach my daughter to tie her shoes, my wonderful neighbor did it in ten minutes. When my son reached the age to explore fire, a firefighter neighbor had that difficult discussion for me, teaching him the deadly danger and important responsibility that accompanied fire.

Yes, Memphis has many challenges and a lot of bad press, but the heart of the city is people. Good people, caught up in the day-to-day struggles of life. Some are over whelmed just getting out of bed each day, others by how to pay their bills, or maybe unsure how to find a job. Ultimately, each of these are living, breathing people who with a bit of faith and belief are an important part of Memphis. Big or small, each will leave a mark on the city through the people they know, what they did and where they went. In addition, no matter how bad the day is, each should remember that they will affect someone each day. Intertwined with other lives, a bad day for one is an opportunity for another to offer a hand. The question is how can they leave a good mark?

Having a bad day? Give someone a smile. It’s the southern way after all. Take a chance. Leave your mark! Make a difference. Smiles are both free and freeing. Memphis will be a brighter place and you’ll be amazed the doors it will open in your life. Live. Love. Celebrate Memphis!