As I sit here drinking my coffee, ignoring the plaintive cries of my toddler for a few more minutes, two candles are glowing in the background. I wrote last year about my love of Advent, a feeling that gets stronger each year. This season I find myself waiting for many things–my students to turn in their final projects so I can put my online class to rest, paychecks to come, temper tantrums to end. I can feel my daughter forcefully moving, which has me impatiently thinking of the day when I get to hold her.
I am trying something new this Advent, which I hope will evolve, the way these things do, into a loved tradition. I filled the drawers of our Advent calendar with things to do. Some are big, like visiting Zoo Lights, but most are small things that we can do each day to put us in the right mindset. So far we have danced to Christmas carols and mailed postcards to loved ones far away. Soon we will count the donation pig and do something for some else. It is an attempt to remind us about what we are spiritually waiting for, beyond the temporary desires that hit each December.
We sing the missa simplex at our church this liturgical season, and one line keeps coming back to me each morning: “Christ, true light from light, heal our blinded sight.” As I hear hate speech coming from a presidential candidate in the wake of heartbreaking violence, I pray that this season of waiting will allow us all to open our eyes to the beauty and goodness that still exists in our world.
I started listening to WKNO-fm, NPR for the MidSouth, a couple of years ago. I realized that I didn’t get the newspaper, I don’t like watching TV news, and I wasn’t reading about current events online. Basically, I was unaware of what was going on in the U.S. and the wider world. And, for a citizen in a democracy, that is frankly unacceptable. I started listening to be more informed, but I quickly found that there were human interest stories that I enjoyed. Recently, podcasts have become my “adult conversation” during afternoons with the baby when I need a break from narrating my every move to fill the silence. Pop Culture Happy Hour and Planet Money are two of my favorites. I downloaded the NPR One app a few months ago and have been using it to listen to Ask Me Another and This American Life. NPR entertains me, and WKNO brings them to me daily.
The fact that I started listening roughly two years ago means that I’ve listened to multiple on-air pledge drives. Despite hearing the pleas of the WKNO staff and volunteers, this week was my first time to pledge. It was easy, and it was the right thing to do. I support public radio because it adds value to my daily life. I also got a NPR pint glass out of the deal, which is pretty freaking sweet.
We Carricos are officially Friends of the Memphis Public Library. It’s no secret that I love our library. I put books on hold, have books sent from other branches, and shop in Second Editions (the used bookstore inside the Central branch). Noah played baby bingo this summer and was given a free board book for a prize. I participated in their Explore Memphis program for adults, which I hope they will work the kinks out of and try again. I download my five free songs a week through the library’s subscription to Freegal, and I check out ebooks from the relative comfort of my desk chair.
I also use the archives frequently. So frequently, in fact, that I have gotten to know several of the archivists on a first name basis. I can say with certainty that they are some of the nicest, most qualified people I have met in my researching. Honestly, I cannot sing their praises quite loudly or often enough. The Memphis and Shelby County Room (where the archives are housed) also has fantastic equipment available to researchers. I’m talking about a digital microfilm scanner. DIGITAL. Any historian out there knows the magnitude of this equipment. You can zoom in on specific areas and save the images to a zip drive. That means no more reams of copy paper that must be read through a magnifying glass.
Then there are all the library resources that I don’t use–classes for teenagers, job fairs, technology classes, computer access. These are fantastic resources for the Memphis community, and we are happy support them.
Basically, we love the library. Our kid is going to grow up having access to one of the coolest children’s libraries and learning about the world through afternoons spent grabbing whatever book catches his eye. We are happy to be their Friends.
The picture above is the Benjamin Hooks (Central) Branch Light Veil atrium sculpture by Ed Carpenter. You can see more photographs of the piece and read his artist statement on the Urban Art Commission’s website.
I have never once had to worry about having food. I’ve also never had to think about where I would be sleeping or how I would take my next shower. I have always had a home, a support network, and more food and clothes than I truly need. These are big things that I make a habit of taking for granted every day. Of course I’ll be sleeping in my bed tonight; of course I’ll make dinner for my family in my kitchen. I cannot even fathom what it would be like to be without one or any combinations of these necessities that I routinely fail to consider.
Which makes me wonder, what would life be like to not have these be an automatic parts of the day? How would you function not knowing what your next meal would be or where you were going to sleep or when you could take a shower? When I stop to think about how big these big things are, I am stunned at my good fortune. We have more than enough to be safe, sated, healthy, warm and happy.
Hunger and homelessness are multifaceted problem with so many causes–PTSD, income inequality, bad luck, addiction. How do you help? Where do you start? And, to steal from Dr. Paul Farmer, beyond mountains, there are mountains.
One of my favorite things about being Catholic is the emphasis on social justice, and St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen in downtown Memphis takes the biblical imperative to feed the hungary literally. The soup kitchen has been operating continuously since 1870, and it serves hundreds of meals six days a week.
Frankly, I don’t know what to do to end hunger in our community. What I do know is that since we are putting our money where our hearts are, we can at least help provide food to a few people who are in need of a good meal and smile. It’s not going to change the problem, but it will help.
As I mentioned, Greg and I are putting our money where our hearts are so last week we joined the Overton Park Conservancy. When we got married in 2011, we lived in an apartment right at Poplar and Cooper, which made Overton our front yard. The view out of our front window was the tee box for hole 9 on the golf course, which we found out on the day that my dad was playing and called me to say that he was looking at my living room window. One of the only things I really miss about our first home is how close we were to the park. We would go for strolls in the Old Forest on the paved trails and on hikes through its heart. We started our Christmas card tradition in the smack middle of the forest. We also went to the zoo a lot, saw Armed and Dangerous at the Brooks, and attended concerts at the Levitt Shell. I’m a big Paul Thorn fan, and the first time I saw him live was at a Shell concert. For free. Because Memphis.
At the end of 2011, the Overton Park Conservancy formally entered the scene as the nonprofit management group of the park. The City of Memphis maintains ownership, but the Conservancy protects, preserves and enhances the park. In June 2012, they opened Overton Bark. We had gotten Zeb, our lovable, neurotic mutt from the pound, in January and had been taking him to the city dog park at Tobey Park. There’s not much shade there, which made it very difficult to be motivated to go. Overton Bark on the other hand is a well-designed use of a previously under utilized space. The entrance is architecturally interesting, and there is enough space for my big, goofy dog to get his play on while I sit under some old growth trees on benches made from the few trees they had to fell during construction.
Now that we’ve moved a whole ten minutes away and acquired a baby, we don’t make it to the park as much as we did when we only had to walk across one street. But we go to the zoo and have taken the baby and Zeb on walks in the Old Forest and to romp around the dog park. We also took the kiddo to his first concert ever at the Levitt Shell. He got to see Amy Lavere for free. Because Memphis.
In a few short months, we will take Noah to play on the wonderful new playground and to borrow books from the Little Free Library that is dedicated to children’s books. We will go to the zoo a lot and make it a point to go and see Brooks’ Marisol exhibit before it leaves in September. I’ll start sharing my love of the outdoors with my kid by taking him on hikes in the middle of his city. We joined the Conservancy because it benefits every member of our family–two and four legged alike–in very real ways, and we want to see them succeed in their longterm goals. If you haven’t seen the work that they have been doing, check out their website and explore the projects that have been completed and what is in the planning stages. It’ll make you happy.
Greg and I love Memphis. We actively choose to make this city our home. We didn’t land here by accident or decide to stay out of a misguided sense of anything. We are here for many reasons–family, friends, work, opportunities, and combinations of the aforementioned reasons that are only possible here.
Part of living here is seeing the potential for what might be. This place is full of movers and shakers, some of whom are dear friends of ours. There are people building up neighborhoods, tearing down stereotypes and teaching others all kinds of things about our shared experiences.
In Memphis, we can hike in an Old Forest in the middle of the city. We can garden our huge community garden plot. We can actively participate in CBU’s alumni association. We can push our preconceived boundaries, reimagine how we want to live and do something about it. We could design our lives anywhere we chose, but I feel empowered to do so here.
Because we love where we live, we are making a planned effort to give monetarily to the local causes we believe in. We can never do as much as we want, but we can put our money where our hearts are and contribute to making this home of ours the place we want it to be. I don’t think Memphis is perfect, but I do believe that it is the place where I want my family to grow. I love Memphis, and I want to make it better–one targeted donation and volunteer project at a time.