How I Spent My January Vacation

9290875537_905bcea664_o(Credit: Sean Davis, Flickr Commons)

I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I got lost in my own hometown last week.

In my defense, the Nashville I grew up in and the Nashville I went back to visit are two almost completely different places. The skyline looks different, new restaurants have popped up all over the place, new people have popped up all over the place, and even the streets go slightly different places than they used to.

Fortunately, my misadventures didn’t last long and I eventually figured out where I was, but I realized how little I now know about a city I once knew so much about.

One thing I’m a bit ashamed to admit I never knew about even when I was living there, are the incredible number and amazing diversity of non-profits in Nashville who are doing phenomenally important, but often overlooked work serving the least of these in their community. There are more than I can count and I’m learning about more and more of them everyday, but I was fortunate enough to spend a little time hanging out and getting to know a few of them.

And I can’t wait to tell you all about the amazing things they’re doing.

As part of the relaunch of my blog, I’ve been searching for something new to do. I didn’t know at first what that would be, I just knew I wanted it to be different and interesting and hopefully worthwhile in some way.

But not crazy different.

Whatever I was going to do, I wanted it to flow naturally from the sort of things I already write about and have covered on my blog for years. But as tempting as making my own Third Eagle of the Apocalypse video was, I found myself coming back to an issue I return to over and over and over again: social justice and the call of Matthew 25.

Unfortunately, at this stage in my life (I’ve got a 1 year old at home, my wife is in residency, and essentially all of my childcare options are 1,000 miles away) I’m not able to be very involved in a non-profit, let alone start my own. But I do have a platform I can share with folks doing the sort of work Jesus calls all of us to do, but which too few of us actually follow through on. My platform isn’t huge, but if I can use whatever platform I do have to shine a light and magnify the voices of those whose work too often goes overlooked and underfunded, then that’s something I will gladly do.

And that’s why I was in Nashville.

My thinking for the series I’m putting together goes something like this: we hear so much (from many of the same people) about all the great things we can and should be doing as disciples of Jesus, but we rarely hear from the folks actually doing those great things. That needs to change. It’s not that we don’t need to hear the call of Jesus to “go and do likewise.” We do. But it’s a lot easier to go and do when we know what that going and doing looks like in real life as well as what it takes to do the “going” and the sacrifices required to do the “doing.”

I want to help tell the stories of folks who have made going and doing their way of life in hopes that their stories might inspire the rest of us to either support them directly or follow in their footsteps.

Now, I’m acutely aware of how unsexy this is. There’s no controversy here. I (intentionally) didn’t talk to anyone famous. And even though we all love the idea of serving the least of these, engaging with the work itself, even just taking a few minutes to hear from those involved, is something a lot of us tend to be decidedly less enthusiastic about. So, there’s a good chance this series won’t get any more traction than a few nice comments here and there and that’s it. I get all of that and to be completely honest, I wasn’t expecting much more than facts and figures and a few canned speeches from the folks I planned on interviewing.

But I got so, so much more.

I got raw honesty and heartbreak, genuine hope and deep conviction, stories of love and loss from families caring for the children of the incarcerated, folks bringing food – and themselves – to urban deserts, and regular people of all sorts proving every day that even ordinary folks can do extraordinary things when love stops being just an emotion and starts being a way of life.

The more I sat down with these folks and listened to their stories, the more passionate I became about doing everything I can to support them. And when I left, I left convinced that there are countless more stores out there that have been ignored for too long that need to be told, not just because they’re interesting, but because there are very real needs being met and I believe in the power of good stories to inspire good folks to meet the needs of other people.

I’m still working on exactly how I’m going to tell these stories on the blog. Heck, I don’t even have a name for the series yet. But I do hope for the series. Maybe it’s a naïve hope, but I hope that folks like me will hear these stories and stop just talking about serving the least of these and actually start doing it.