The End Of The First Quarter

If the Nashville Flood is a football game, the game is not over, it is not even halftime.  We have reached the end of the first quarter.

Our opponent has thrown everything it has at us – bombs, blitzes, screens trick plays – scoring a few times, but we have taken the worst and given as good as we’ve gotten.

The game has settled down, and now that the game plans have been used up, it is now a test of execution and will.

This is when we must be careful.

Now our enemy is not nature, but the voices of divisiveness.  They are not hard to find at all; they have been with us since the beginning.  Wormtongues whispering in our ear, saying they hate when people turn against one another, yet always bring up issues they feel will do just that.  “I’m just being realistic”, they say.

They begrudgingly compliment us on our unprecedented (as the Red Cross has called it) local response, yet they misread it as an acting out of grief and insist that it will fade in a few days. 

Yes, we feel grief, the weight is strong on our shoulders.  It came out in full force during Sunday Services this past week.

But grief is not what drives us. Anyone who has been at a neighborhood cleanup knows this.  From the street, one could hear the unlikely sound of laughter or singing as the labor continued.

We are not stoic internalizers here.  We have a huge percentage of emoters.  We are expressing – we cannot help ourselves.

We are expressing love for our God, for our neighbor, for our friends and family, for our city. 

It is love that brings forth tears, that springs us into action, that makes us push on through sore shoulders and tired feet.  It is love that makes us pass out sandwiches and water and give hugs and make pledges of aid.

If one visits a cleanup site, it is there to see with one’s own waking eyes – love.

We must gather our strength and carry this spirit forward.  There is much of the game left to be played.  We can see the road to victory now, but it is far from within our grasp.

There will come a day when Nashvillians will gather to watch the Titans play football; sporting events are now the only logistical way to gather the town in a major southern city.  And sometime during a break in the game, some of the heroes of the Nashville flood will be introduced, because the Titans organization always does these sort of things. Many of the Hero Stories will surface in the coming weeks.  There are, of course, too many heroes to fit on the field, but Nashvillians understand symbolism, if anything.

And on that day, in that moment, there will arise such a cheer, such a din and cry of pride and solidarity, that the cars in the parking lot will tremble.  At that moment, even the Cumberland herself will give up a wake as if in respectful salute.

And children playing in Riverfront Park on the opposite bank will see the wake, yet they will not run in terror, but will instead rush to let the River’s splashes gently kiss their cheeks, as they laugh in delight.

And then they will know, we will all know, that we have witnessed the founding of The City That Love Built.

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Just So Proud To Be Here

Minie_pearl_hat To our visitors from the national media,

Sorry about the mess, we just haven’t had time to tidy up yet. 

Unfortunately, while your eyes were somewhat understandably turned elsewhere, we had a bit of a “situation” here in Nashville.  Large swaths of our city and surrounding areas were flooded after unprecedented rainfall.  People were trapped in their homes, or in need of rescue, had their homes damaged or destroyed altogether.  There was much loss of life, health, and property.  Schools, businesses, even beloved landmarks were affected.

At one time, when water was impossibly flowing into the first floor of my own house, and the rain just would not stop falling, and sirens were going past my house on the way to Bellevue almost every 30 seconds, knowing I had friends who were either being evacuated or were trapped,  it almost became too much.

And it’s not over yet.

As a child, I played in many of the creeks and rivers which suddenly raged and caused so much damage.  I have lived and worked and played and worshipped and shopped and cheered in all of the places your cameras have shown underwater.  It is heartbreaking.

I have many friends and coworkers who have lost everything.  But even if I didn’t personally know so many victims of this disaster, its impact would still be enormous.  Bordeaux to Bellevue, Antioch to Bell’s Bend, Hermitage to Brentwood, Franklin to Ashland City to Murfreesboro – these are not just places where strangers live.  This is home.

These are not strangers, they are Family.

We will take care of our family.  Long after your cameras are gone, we will not rest until our neighbors are healthy and whole.  Come back in a few months or beyond, you’ll see.

Yes, in less trying times, we fuss and we fight and roll our eyes at each other.  But our disagreements end at the water’s edge, as it were.  Our hipsters and bumpkins alike have a fierce attachment to this place. And both can lay claim to its rich tradition and history.  We are like Minnie Pearl – country and bodacious and silly, sometimes embarrassingly so.  And we are also like her creator, Sarah Cannon – patrician, proper, educated,well mannered – yet always “in on the joke”.

Most of us overflowed with ecstasy and pride when the Music City Miracle happened (and we were ALL there, don’t you know?), and we wept and mourned last 4th of July when Steve McNair was killed.  I dare you – go to any part of Nashville, rich, poor or in between – and ask about these events, and you will find the reaction is exactly the same, be it in north Nashville or Brentwood.  Somehow, the Titans transcend all of the barriers others might try to put between us.  That may seem weird to you, but it makes perfect sense to us.

Before you take your cameras and move on to your Next Big Thing, take a few minutes to talk to the people who live here.  There is a spirit to this place – I’ve lived here all of my 45 years and I haven’t quite been able to put my finger on it.  You can see it in the celebrities and sports stars who move to town, many times supposedly on a temporary basis until they can move on to bigger and better things on the coasts.  Yet, they find themselves lingering here.  And they stay.  “It’s a good place to raise a family”, they might say, but there’s something more.  Perhaps even they cannot put into words the spirit of this place.

It’s the spirit that compels hundreds to gather at a moment’s notice to sandbag one of the few remaining riverside communities not yet flooded, saving it in the process.

It’s the spirit that has people in Bordeaux taking a flash collection for people in Bellevue, and vice-versa.

It’s the spirit that asks “what can I do?”, then does whatever is needed without hesitation.

It’s the spirit that causes emergency workers to carry on beyond the point of exhaustion.

It’s the spirit that causes our usually silly local media to become an extremely valuable information lifeline for hours upon hours straight.

It’s funny, normally we natives express our coolness by showing our ambivalence to the Grand Ole Opry.  I’ll be honest – I was born here, and I’ve never been to an Opry performance.  Yet, sometimes when I travel and I’m missing home on weekends, I tune into WSM and listen.  It is at these times I realize how much I love the city of my birth.  Hearing that the Opry House was flooded affected me in ways I cannot explain.

My family will find somewhere and someone to help this week.  Then, uncharacteristically, this weekend I will listen to the Opry, if it airs.  I need to hear it.  It will serve as both a salve and a reassurance, as an expression of grief and of hope. 

Through the Opry, that Mother of Churches, we will thank God for his provision, mourn those who were lost, and dedicate ourselves to finishing the job of helping our neighbors.  Mostly, we will declare to the world that we are still here, and it’s going to take more than a little water to stop us from singing.

Like Minnie Pearl, I’m just so proud to be here.