Opinion » The Rant

Be Thankful, Memphis

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At some point, it became a Thanksgiving tradition in my family to go around the table and have each of us say one thing we're thankful for before eating dinner. Food, family, health, and a job are a few of the common answers. Like clockwork, my sister starts to get antsy when someone takes more than their allotted 30 seconds or has the audacity to mention more than one thing they are thankful for.

Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. Partly because of the sweet potato casserole my mom makes, but mostly because of the company it brings. For as long as I can remember, my family has spent the holiday with my uncle, aunt, and cousin from Nashville. My uncle, affectionately known as "Uncle Bubba," was more or less the life of the party. He had stories and jokes for days. His jokes were mostly crude and hardly ever funny, but they never failed to fill the room with laughter. His presence was huge. And then in spring 2016, he passed away. He was sick, so we knew it was coming, but we didn't expect it to come so soon.

The year he died, Thanksgiving was different. As we'd done in the years before, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. We stumbled a little, searching our hearts for something to be grateful for while accepting that a person we love would never spend this day with us again.

The truth is, it can be hard to be thankful in the face of some things others are going through. The city in which we live has a lot of issues — crime, poverty, food deserts — to name three. These are real problems that by no means should be ignored, but Memphis is so much more than a poor city rife with crime. These things don't define Memphis, and we shouldn't let them diminish our gratitude for the unique city we call home. We still have a lot to be thankful for.

Here are just a few things — some big, some small — that Memphis has going for itself.

Development: Memphis has a slew of new developments in the works Downtown. One Beale, Union Row, and the recently announced Pinch District redevelopment are just a few. These projects mean more jobs for Memphians and more money for the local economy.

Sports: Even if you're not a sports fan, I'm sure you know by now that the Memphis Tiger football team — 10-1 this season — is hot. Just as hot is Penny Hardaway's Tiger basketball team (5-1, so far). Even with James Wiseman out until January, this Tigers team is special to watch and will likely do big things. And let's not forget about Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. The rookie point guard is unbelievable on the court. His moves, his passes, his clutch shots. Wow.

Community organizers: Have you noticed the way Memphians rally behind other Memphians and for the causes they believe in? We saw it in the fight to take down the city's Confederate statues and in those who rallied behind Manuel Duran, and we still see it in undeterred activists who show up time after time to rally for and against issue after issue. We see it in the hundreds of nonprofits serving the city. We see it on college campuses and on the streets. Memphians know how to stand up when it matters.

Transit: Memphis is slated to get its first Bus Rapid Transit line by 2024. The service will change the way people get from Downtown to the University of Memphis area. It's not the solution to all of the city's transit woes, but it's a start, and we've needed a start for a long time. The city has also upped its transportation game with the growing number of shared mobility options. We've got bikes, we've got standing scooters, and now we even have scooters with seats.

Thankful for good views and green spaces - TONY BOSSE | DREAMSTIME
  • Tony Bosse | Dreamstime
  • Thankful for good views and green spaces

Public spaces: From the Mississippi riverfront to Overton Park to Shelby Farms, the city is blessed with quality outdoor spaces. The goal should be for all neighborhoods to have access to clean, safe, green spaces like these, but let's not take what we have for granted.

None of these things should detract from the fact that there is still much work to be done in Memphis. I'm not suggesting that we ignore all the problems and live in blissful ignorance, but every once in a while it's good to take a step back and be thankful for what's going in the right direction.

Maya Smith is a Flyer staff writer.

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