When we originally met with Molly and Jason Wexler the first night of the Fellowship, groggy-eyed, new to the southern accent, and anticipating what sort of life/environment/adventure the summer would greet us with, I do remember the focus on the accessibility of Memphis, as well as the importance of community and relationship building. Throughout the summer I have heard this same narrative, told by people across all fields, genders, races, and religions. These are people who stopped by Memphis and to their surprise, ended up falling in love with the culture and staying. People who could go anywhere else but chose Memphis and continue to stay here because of the unique community and the plethora of opportunities.
One of the biggest themes I keep seeing throughout the summer is that in Memphis there is this two way relationship where when you give to Memphis, Memphis gives back to you. There is no better way for me to express this than through sharing about my volunteer experience last week. My internship placement, Volunteer Odyssey, is a nonprofit that connects Memphians who are between jobs or seeking employment with a 7 day tailored volunteer experience in order to help them network, build their resume, find employment, and give back to community. I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample each of the volunteer sites that we send people to myself. Thus, I found myself volunteering at St. Mary’s soup kitchen, a non-profit that provides meals to homeless individuals in the community. While the experience itself was incredible, one of my favorite things was hearing the story of Ron who is the soup kitchen manager.
He told us about his son who as a baby was born with a tumor, and was informed that he had no chance at surviving the month. TWENTY EIGHT years later, that boy is not only alive but has impacted and given back to the community in a larger way than most people will ever do in their entire lives. In order to show his thanks and appreciation to St Jude Hospital, the internationally acclaimed Memphis hospital in which he has undergone over 50 surgeries in the past 28 years, he pledged to give back to them by raising $1,000 for every year that he was cared for in the hospital, totaling $28,000. However, he not only hit that mark….he surpassed it, instead raising $70,000 for the hospital! I think this story really embodies the Memphis spirit of mutuality that I have witnessed first-hand so many times this summer-You give back to the Memphis (community), and the Memphis (community) gives back to you.
Another great thing about community is that it is also about the little everyday things, such as last night when one of the Fellows had a birthday so we all celebrated with a great girls night. Just being together and sharing time and food and community can sometimes be the best of all.
I am so thankful to have been a part of it this summer and I would recommend the TI Fellowship to anyone looking to have a great experience in a warm, welcoming, and unique community. Thank you Memphis for your southern hospitality.
– Mira Biller
Last night was Michele Ozer’s birthday, so we had a small gathering to celebrate. It was great to catch up with everybody after the long weekend for the 4th of July and to just have some cake and talk for a few hours, even though I stayed up past my bedtime. Despite not having any fellowship events because of the holiday weekend, there have been plenty of events throughout the summer to get to know everyone and really build lasting friendships and a great sense of community. Whether we were all laughing at a hilarious speech from Eitan in front of all the donors or just venting about a tough week at work, it didn’t matter. We were doing it together. On a more personal note, due to my experiences at work, I have become beyond proficient at excel and learned to apply my programming abilities to writing macros. It has already and I’m sure will continue to prove an invaluable skill to me and help to make me an asset to any future employers.
Despite having grown up in Memphis, I really had no idea that harbor town existed and I honestly had no idea South Bluffs existed either. Since I lived in East Memphis just at the Germantown border, I never explored downtown very much since it seemed so far away. However, after having to make the commute from downtown to East Memphis and back every day, I have really come to appreciate how easy it is to drive all the way across town in Memphis compared to other cities. It was definitely something that I took for granted during my childhood, but no more. The Fellowship is half way through now, and, though I am sad that only half remains, I am happy that I am a better man because of it.