For all intents and purposes when a rainbow is referenced or included as part of a name, it signifies goodness. It is written about in the Bible as being used by God as a sign of His covenant that He would never again destroy all of mankind. At the end of it is where we can find the leprechaun’s pot of gold, according to Irish folklore. When represented in flag form it stands for peace, pride and diversity, as it did when used as part of a European peace tour in 1929, at a 1961 peace march in Italy and as it does today with the LGBT community. Recently, on an unusually warm January day in Memphis, I found myself at Rainbow Lake Playground in Overton Park surrounded by fellow Memphians who represented this goodness, peace, pride and diversity, leaving no doubt that the space was fully deserving of and living up to its name.
Immigrants’ foreign accents could be heard alongside the familiar southern drawl of native Memphians as we talked about the irregular climate change, doing our best not to complain but at times hinting that we wished Mother Nature would make up her mind so we could all stop getting colds. With schools’ enrollment season upon us many parents discussed their excitement about choices made while children from public schools Idlewild and Grahamwood Elementary played in the sand pit and on the merry-go-round with children from private schools Christ Methodist Day and St. Dominic School. I’m pretty sure the only comparisons being made were that of whose sand “castle” was largest and whose push resulted in the fastest go-round. As our group conversed one woman expressed that, in her opinion, there are two places in Memphis where the beauty in and of our community’s diversity is truly seen and celebrated: Rainbow Lake Playground and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Speaking of St. Jude, Memphis resident Ben Christian referenced the hospital in a set of social media posts that, by now, must have gone viral. In one he writes,
“St. Jude is entirely apolitical. They don’t pick parties or sides. Ever. Their goal is ending childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. That's it.”
In the other, he writes,
"This is where I predictably remind you that St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where families never pay for treatment, travel, housing or food, was created by the son of Lebanese immigrants as a thank you to the United States. The charitable organization that solely exists to insure that the doors stay open and children are saved is ALSAC, American Lebanese and Syrian Associated Charities. The board is largely of Lebanese and Syrian descent.”
While I haven’t personally spoken with Mr. Christian, I am led to believe that he wanted to remind us of the diversity which exists in our city and all of the goodness that has come to fruition because of it. During a time when the pain of divisiveness has taken a toll on so many of us, some are reminding us that it is not division that saves lives but the unifying hope of a people concerned not with individual accolades but with the collective idea that help must be given to those who desperately need it, no matter the cost.
At a time in our nation’s course where I have sometimes felt hopeless, places such as Rainbow Lake Playground and St. Jude offer that stark reminder that if there is anywhere in the world where hope can abide in spite of, it’s Memphis. And if I am not deemed wise enough or prominent enough that you would take my word for it, I’d like to leave you with the words of journalist and author Ron Suskind, whose documentary Life, Animated earned an Oscar nomination this year:
“I understand why there is only one Memphis. You say Memphis, what happens? You feel an infusion of the soul not just ‘cause of the music- that’s part of it. It’s because of Memphis. Memphis is an onomatopoetic word that speaks of a kind of search for ‘us.’ Some cities are divided…You’re bound together and that’s hopeful. That’s the seabed of what could be hope.”
Stay hopeful, Memphis.