We spent the afternoon at a birthday party, meeting Elsa and Anna from Frozen. It took time to explain to my son that the birthday party we were attending was not for him. No. He would not be opening presents, but instead he would be giving one.
He can stand to learn a thing or two about grace.
On the car ride home my phone rang. Turning on the speaker phone with my disgruntled three-year old in the backseat, I took the call. My friend Hannah had an idea for the Gracing Memphis blog!
Hannah had signed up to work at a soup kitchen downtown and asked if I would like to tag along. I loved the idea, but I had already committed to another service project during that time.
The evening came and went and I spent the next morning preparing for….The Week. Anyone with small children knows what this means, and that it takes a lot of time.
Trip to the grocery. Ten loads of laundry. Plan the meals. Scrub the toilets. Fill up the gas tank. What does a three-year old eat anyway?
I busily readied myself for…The Week…. and headed off to my service commitment.
Afterwards as I was driving home, I began questioning how I use my time. What do I have left to give? It feels like the list never ends. How can I be of service to others when I’m barely able to keep up with the commitments I already have?
After starting this blog about acts of grace and goodwill around Memphis, I found myself wondering if I myself have any grace to share with others. Am I really willing to give a few hours of my time each month?
If I counted all the things that are demanding my attention, it might take up this entire blog post. My career, potential sale of my home, being a mother and wife, ten minutes for myself, writing my book, exercise, and beginning this blog….and the list goes on.
Will this blog turn into another commitment that falls by the wayside? Have I overextended myself because I am too afraid to say no? How will this affect my Sunday evening meal with my in-laws?
Before I knew it, I had almost talked myself out of every good thing going in my life. The blog could buried in the graveyard of cyberspace, and no one would ever be the wiser. I could drive straight home and hide under the covers, except that the three-year old would find me.
He always finds me.
Besides, he would think I was playing hide and go seek. I don’t even have time to play that game some days.
Turning my car on to South Cooper Street, I had my answer.
There is always time for grace.
Quickly making the block, I put my car in park and grabbed my iPad. It was a bit of grace that I just so happened to have it on me. I was going to need to snap a few photos.
I quickly thanked the stars, and ran a little too eagerly towards my unsuspecting subject. He had no idea he was my next grace maker.
Any one familiar with the Cooper Young area recognizes the Higbee Underpass. The worn, tattered, and graffiti covered bridge greats those traveling south on Cooper, while parents and small children play nearby in Peabody Park.
Ominously, the structure hangs over the street carrying rail cars across the city to deliver their goods. It reflects the dark trappings of a city that many impoverished call home. The homeless dwell nearby in the park, loiter by the tracks, and seek refuge from the underpass. All the while, middle class and wealthy Memphians live only blocks away, securely tucked into their warm beds every night.
Since revitalization of the Cooper Young neighborhood, Overton Square, and Overton Park, citizens are coming from near and far to get a taste of this up and coming part of Memphis. Shoppers, drinkers, and eaters alike are flocking here in spite of pockets of blight that remain.
Slade Bishop was hard at work painting the underpass in the hot June sun. This would be my next featured post on Gracing Memphis.
Along with a team of students from the Memphis College of Art, he is working to clean up and beautify the eyesore that the Higbee Underpass has become. His partners, Whitney Kerr and Ester Sixks will be assisting with the cleanup and artistic design.
The Cooper/Highbee Underpass Mural project, spearheaded by Betsy Robinson, is a summer community service project. Funding for the mural project was raised through the popular website, ioby.org (In Our Backyard). According to the website IOBY is;
a crowd-resourcing platform for citizen-led neighbor-funded projects. Our name is derived from the opposite of NIMBY. Our mission is to strengthen neighborhoods by supporting the leaders in them who want to make positive change, engaging their neighbors, one block at a time.
This is grace.
In as little as two days, with small endowments from the community, they were able to raise the $1600 needed to fully fund the mural.
Representing the diversity in Cooper Young, Bishop’s vision is to include hand shakes, fist bumps, eclectic houses, and line variations for implied space and depth. Ginkgo leaves and dandelion will adorn the borders of the mural.
Work will soon begin on the other side of the overpass, where they will paint a simple banner that says “Midtown”. This will surely be the newest photo background for Memphians and visitors alike.
Without being paid, Slade Bishop is gladly of service to the Cooper Young community. This is just one small way for him to give back. His time is a token of grace for all that live and visit the Midtown area.
When asked what he enjoys most about creating art, he replied “I never know how it’s going to turn out. It might end up good or bad.”
Grace is like that.
Can we ever really know what effect our favors and blessings have upon others? Is there a way to gauge the impact of grace? Do we ever truly see the rewards of our time?
“The wall was dark, dingy, and depressing. If I can make people’s day brighter by drawing on a wall, then by all means I will!” Bishop says.
Somehow I think this act of grace will illuminate the lives of many Memphians.
Georgia O’Keefe once said,
Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
The Cooper/Highbee Underpass will take some time to complete. The volunteers are hard at work, but as with any service project they can always use more hands.
If you would like to volunteer your time to the Cooper/Highbee Underpass Mural project you can sign up at:
My hope is that everyone in our community takes the time to really see the mural and how these people are Gracing Memphis.
The next time I find myself driving down South Cooper Street, I know I will drive just a little slower.
After all, I do have the time.