Thursday, September 20, 2018

Walking in Memphis

by Shari G (writer), West Hollywood, April 29, 2007

What a surprising life experience. I was sent to Memphis to help open up one of our new restaurant locations and help train the new staff. I am on my flight home and I just started thinking about this past month in Memphis and the only thoughts that came to my mind are the people. I was unaware myself of some of the still existing segregation or rather just the lasting effects it still has on some of the residents of this sweet town. There is still a lot of poverty and you can still see in their eyes, especially the older ones, the hardships they have experienced. One man used to come into this private room where the managers and trainers would eat our lunches, and would ask if he could come in, and we all said of course, and he said "I will just sit in the corner". In the corner?? We all just jumped basically at getting him a chair at our table. Just hearing that really just crushed me. There is a lifetime lived beneath those gentle eyes and sweet smiles. I had a chance to meet some of these wonderful souls.

There was the sweet-natured, soft-spoken, gentle, small-framed, but big hearted African American man named Tracy who hugged me when I left and wouldn't let go; who told me how grateful he was to me for taking the time to help him with this job that he never thought he would get the opportunity to have in his lifetime. (He is a busboy) He said how much I influenced and taught him, but it was HIM that touched my life and my heart. He appreciated the simple things. He appreciated the "Good Morning" and the smile I greeted him with everyday. These Memphinians were such grateful and gracious and warm people that I walked through the restaurant every morning from the hostesses to the dishwashers, making sure I greeted and acknowledged every single one with a hello and a smile. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Because I saw there face when I noticed them. It took everything within me to not want to hug every single one but then I wouldve never started the work day. Such small things that I usually dont even think about, made such a huge impact on them.

Then there was again, quiet and soft-spoken middle aged Marcus who worried everyday if the support staff (busboys, bartenders, hosts, etc) were upset with him because he wasn't making enough money to tip them properly, that he literally one evening started getting serious chest pains. I pulled him aside because he just didnt look right. We talked and he told me that between this and his other job, he had been working straight through for 24 hours. I just listened and talked to him and assured him that we all cared for his well being and I would make sure that no one thought poorly of him. I also made him assure me that if he felt worse, he would alert me. I watched him the rest of the night and tried to help out whenever I could. The next day he told he had something for me and handed me a pink envelope with a flower that he had drawn for me and there was obviously by the weight of it, a gift inside. I told him I didnt want anything from him and was unsure why he was giving me anything and he went on to say that I would understand once I read the card. He then humbly went on to say that the gift wasnt anything big, but just a gesture. I had to run an errand, so I accepted graciously and opened it up in the elevator. It was one of the most touching things I have ever read. And the gift, PERFECT. It was a candy bar and considering I had just gotten my period (too much info? sorry), chocolate was perfectly timed. I read the card and ate the candy on the ride up and just cried. I did nothing except just care about this man the night before and he said in his 30 years in this business, he had never experienced such compassion from someone and that he would never forget me and what a blessing I was. HE was the blessing. And so was Bernie, and Tracy and Susan and Derrick and Lindell and the room service express girls and the young man at the corner starbucks with whom our souls connected every morning when we smiled and then I said goodbye and he simply gave me the peace symbol.

This is what Memphis will be to me. Not Graceland, or the great BBQ, or Beale Street (AKA Bourbon Street), but the gentle spirits that have taken residence in my heart. I will forever be touched.

Thank you Memphis.

About the Writer

Shari G is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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