There’s a lot that has changed about my community. That happens when you live someplace for 43 years. But, despite an entirely different complexion and economic status and just about everything else, there is some strange and persistent spirit that is East Nashville.
This week, East Nashville friends, families, neighbors, and small businesses have suffered extraordinary loss - including two lives - due to a middle-of-the-night EF3 tornado. It’s been devastating.
I have seen the East Nashville community rally before and I know they can work like dogs when it comes to helping a neighbor and uplifting our community. I saw this in 2010 when the city flooded and I saw the results from the 1998 tornado when I was stuck at college and couldn’t get home to do my part. I saw it growing up when families were advocating and organizing for anything from cleaner alleys to safer streets to better schools to battling slum lords. We would gather in the basement of Tulip Street Methodist Church around a potluck of someone’s potato salad, someone’s deviled eggs, someone’s lime jello salad, and someone’s fried chicken - and be a community.
I have been reminded this week how, in a crisis, in real community, people will activate and just do what they can: you have a chainsaw, you cut fallen trees. You still have electricity, you offer a shower or laundry or a place just to be. You have a few bucks and a wagon, you pass out water and snacks. You have a pair of gloves, you pick up whatever debris is out there - whether the remnants of a roof or shredded insulation or a pile of bricks formerly protecting someone’s home or business. You have a full heart and just don’t know what else to do, you give a hug and just let people know you care.
You do all of it, big and small, and all of it matters.
This is a truth I’ve known about East Nashville - all of my life.
Tonight, Margot McCormack of Margot’s Cafe hosted a “cookout” outside of her restaurant supported by some needed libations from Woodland Wine Merchant and some sweets from 5 Daughters to bring the community together and share some food, a little alcohol, and some camaraderie and love. Many of us still do not have power. Many others cannot stay in their own homes and cannot run their businesses. Some have lost everything. People are hurting.
I went to the cookout because I have felt helpless and disconnected and my spirit has been deeply troubled by the loss my community has faced. I just needed to see some familiar faces. I just needed to give a hug to a neighbor. I figured I’d grab a hot dog or something and just hang out with my wife and kids. It was oddly very important to me to be there.
This time, thanks to Margot, I traded the lime jello for a lamb chop - and some greens with black-eyed peas, and a kale salad, and maybe some Israeli couscous salad (guessing, but delicious!), and much more. It was just so East Nashville. All of it. Today. Always.
I do love lamb chops. I do love East Nashville.
Some things change. Some things stay the same.