The New Memphis

For the first time this past Sunday we visited Calvary Episcopal Church in downtown Memphis. My son got a bit timid when it came time to walk up the aisle with the other children en route to Children’s Church. To no avail I tried to convince him that there was nothing to fear; then the gentleman who had greeted us at the door walked over. He held his hand out and said to Luke, “Come. I’ll walk with you.” Luke glanced at me, I smiled at him, and he placed his small hand in the palm of the large hand that had been extended for him to grasp. Together they walked up the aisle and in that moment fear was overcome by a gesture of love.

In that moment, through my eyes, I saw a manifestation of the new Memphis in one of Memphis’ oldest buildings.

A small, smooth brown hand that hasn’t yet labored very much in this world firmly held on to the large, weathered white hand filled with the stories and wisdom gathered from its many years of labor. A boy with just half a decade on this earth walked alongside a man whose life spans tens of decades. They are from different cities, different generations, different ancestries, yet in these differences I understood the depth and importance of what there was to learn.

Over the past few weeks I’ve read numerous articles that make reference to the “New Memphis.” It is inferred to be new because of the large number of millennials now living in the city and they are infusing their new ideals, new ways of doing things, new approaches and solutions to old problems.

I love it. Who doesn’t love “new”?! As a GenXer, there are days I secretly wish I were a millennial and wouldn’t have to spend so much time learning all of this “new” that is basically second-nature to them. Yet as I watched my son and the gentleman from Calvary boldly go forth without fear, I hoped that as we embrace New Memphis, we would understand that new cannot exist without old.

While we GenXers, many of whom are raising Boomlets, admire (sometimes even envy) all that a millennial embodies, we still look to the wisdom and example of the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation to help us navigate this oft-puzzling map called life. It may appear we don’t have very much in common, but commonality is more than the color of one’s skin, the year of one’s birth, the lineage of one’s family. Commonality can be found in the gesture of extending a hand and understanding that beneath the surface we all battle the same fears and all long for the same reassurances that if given a chance, we can win the battle.
Welcome to the New Memphis.
C.J. Kirkland Is a freelance writer currently based in Memphis, TN.
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