We were happy this week to see that Memphis has dropped out of the top ten most violent cities in the United States, letting St. Louis receive the dissing we normally absorb. Some things are moving in the right direction. However, we remain at the wrong end of nearly every list ever made of problems: obesity, diabetes, violence, stroke, disparities, foreclosures, failure to graduate and pretty much any other way of measuring pathology. Nobody in Memphis is surprised to learn of anything bad. But this is our city and we choose to live here. We work with the strengths and assets to be found to craft the future along the lines of God’s hopes, not our fears.
That is a work of discovery, not recovery, for there is no “re” to go back to. There never has been a time when Memphis can be said to have been healthy. Cleaner and quieter, perhaps, at least for white people. But healthy?
Health lies in the undiscovered, not in memory.
This is why our center of excellence revolves around the “innovation studio” and why our research is driven by our curiosity about what might be possible, not what’s wrong. What if we mash up this and that with the other to see if they might lead to something more like health?
We have eyes for strengths, assets and webs of trust where others just see pathology and gaps. And we are learning how to weave them in patterns that are tough enough for these tough streets. The fellow in the picture is painting this space. I assume he thinks it honors somebody for the past. But it is built for the next idea. You can see the room is curved in on itself, which gives mind to a womb safe for the gestation and generation of living ideas. We are only midwives of the future, maybe raising children of other parents, blending an extended family of odd, but hopeful members.
We can live here and even thrive, if we see the possible and work toward it.