“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward,” Martin Luther King Jr.
I walk down Beale Street in Memphis, TN with sounds of music ringing in my ears. You can hear the blues band echoing from BB Kings Blues Club and as you take less than 10 steps you will hear a saxophone pouring out of Rum Boogies Cafe. This experience happens every 30 seconds as you walk by front doors of clubs on the famed street in Memphis known for its amazing live music and talented musicians.
Part of my journey is to not only find passionate people and gain clarity, but it is also to shift my energy. I believe that the best way to shift this energy is to give back and hopefully inspire by sharing stories and experiences. I have not documented it on my trip, because I believe that giving is not something that I want to flaunt on Social Media with the “hey look at me,” but I have given myself a small budget, within my tighter budget, for what I can give each day when I see someone in need. It could be money to pay for a night in a shelter, food to help fight hunger, or time/conversation to hopefully inspire or motivate. The only reason I am sharing now is because of the experience I had giving, where I got way way way more in return.
While standing outside the BB Kings Blues Club, I am approached by an older gentleman with a Houston Rockets hat covering his gray hair. My best guess was that the gentleman was in his late 60’s or early 70’s, but it is hard to tell as you can see that time and experience has weather and aged him beyond what I could comprehend.
Like 99.999 percent of conversations that strangers start with me he goes “Damn, you a big boy. Where did you play ball?”
I went on to tell him that I played at Arizona state and that I was from Arizona, just visiting Memphis. During my first 90 minutes on Beale Street I had been asked to buy about 10 beers for individuals and approached several times asking for money, so I was waiting for the next question.
“Arizona, I spent some time in Yuma when I was in the Military. Damn it is hot there!” Well, this was not the question/comment I was expecting next.
We went on for the next few minutes talking about Arizona and basketball and sports and again my height. It never gets old: if only beautiful women would use the same approach on me – then I wouldn’t complain at all! 🙂
He then tells me that he is looking for a little bit of money to help him get into the shelter tonight as they are given a few free days and then there is a small fee to hold onto a spot. I decided that I got a good feeling from my gut and I just really enjoyed our simple banter to this point. I pull out a bill and hand it to him and wish him luck. In all of my previous experiences, when I hand over that bill, the person accepting usually bolts as fast as they can, but this guy was different. He took the money and thanked me and then continued to talk.
He went on to say that he was Born and raised in Memphis, before traveling as a roadie for a band all over the United States for 3 years and then enlisting in the Military where he was stationed in several areas across the United States, including Yuma, AZ.
“How do you like Memphis so far?”
I responded with a “If I could only see one place or do one thing, what should I do?”
“CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM – it is powerful.”
The man then went on to share the story of the day and weeks after MLK was shot on April 4th, 1968 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
“I was about 12 years old” (I did quick math – 61 years old & if that math is off blame it on an Arizona State education).
“I didn’t know what was going on he said, my mom told me that Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot, but I was just a kid. I wanted to go out on the street and just play ball. Then all of a sudden there was police and military people roaming the neighborhoods and in the city. It wasn’t safe to go outside for a couple weeks, heck It wasn’t safe to go outside for the rest of the year. It was a crazy time and something I didn’t fully comprehend, because I was just a kid. I just wanted to hang out and play.”
We continued to talk and after about 20 minutes, he reaches into his pocket. “I don’t really have anything to give you, but I do have these two free passes for this club.” I look at the passes and they are for an adult entertainment club. I smiled and said it wasn’t really my thing, that he could hold on to them, but I appreciated the gesture. I loved the idea that the man really didn’t have anything to give, but he wanted to give me something in return for the help I offered.
After he walked away, I decided that the next day I was going to go to the Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis were MLK was assassinated. I walked into a few more clubs, had a couple Michelob Ultras (I am trying to watch my figure) and listened to some more amazing music before I called it a night.
CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM:
So I woke up today and after a quick workout and shower at LA fitness, I headed to the Civil Rights Museum. The second I walked in and went to the first exhibit, I could feel a sensation in my soul.
Why am I getting so emotional?
Every exhibit that I saw, every poster/wall/quote that I read, every audio exhibit that I listened to, and every video that was playing did something to my heart – It filled it with an emotion that felt like I was on a rollercoaster. I felt sadness, pain, hatred at points, love, admiration, inspiration, motivation, you name an emotion that you can feel and this place made me feel it. It was such a special experience and a place that I highly recommend everyone visiting at some point in your life. (FYI: There is a BBQ joint across the street that is also another reason why you should come visit – What??? So Good).
I don’t really want to dive into to much details on the actual Museum itself, but it is a special place that I believe will impact anyone who spends some time within its walls. It is a place where you witness true courage and strength in the face of insurmountable obstacles that many of us are privileged enough that we will never have to battle. It is a place that will make you reflect on your own life and battles and take a deep look inside your heart and soul.
As I walked out of the Museum, fighting tears the entire time I was inside, I sat down and I just started to cry. I can’t even explain the feeling, but so many emotions were overcoming my soul that I just had to let it all out. I went to my car, sent a message to a special person with a quote that I saw on a wall that I knew she would love, and I just sat in my car for at least an hour. I honestly don’t even remember what I was doing, I was just sitting in space with thoughts and feelings rushing in. I looked at the clock and an hour had passed without me even realizing it.
I then started to think back to the night before. I visited Beale Street in search of amazing music, that was my goal for the night and while I found it, it was a 20 minute conversation with a homeless man who impacted my trip in such a profound way. The idea that he was searching for some material object to repay me for my generosity, when he will never understand the impact his presence, conversation, and sharing of his story had on my journey. I know he will never read this, but if the off chance he ever does I want to say “Thank You.” Thank you for stopping me and choosing me to share your story with. Thank you for asking me for help, because in return you have given me a far greater gift.
It is an amazing thing that when we give, we often receive more in return. I read the book “Love is letting go of Fear,” and the book talks about this principal: To give and give, even if you don’t have it, give and you in return you will be blessed. Don’t fear the unknown, but embrace Love.
As I am reflecting back on the situation, it was the homeless man who came to me in need of something, but it was me who left that conversation with the true gift. I challenge all of you to open up your hearts and have these conversations and interact with people, even if we don’t expect any personal gain from the interaction. You just never know when that conversation/interaction will lead you to a place that your soul really needs to go.
You never know what gift you might receive by opening up your heart.
Video from Museum: