Dear Memphis, I am praying. So help me. I really am.
I’m praying for your families. For your ER doctors and nurses. For your wounded. For all who are sad.
I’m nobody, Memphis. I’m just a guy. A guy who likes your music. A guy who loves your barbecue.
I am located 200 miles southeast of you, but my heart is in Bluff City right now.
When I close my eyes to pray, my mind wanders along Union Avenue. Past Sun Studios, birthplace of rock and roll. Where Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis discovered themselves.
In my heart, Memphis, I am meandering Beale Street, past the clapboard shotgun house where W.C. Handy’s mother reared the Inventor of the Blues.
My spirit is strolling just south of Beale, past the old Lorraine Motel, where Doctor King was gunned down in 1968.
In my heart, I am eating a pulled pork sandwich, Memphis. I am covered in red sauce, my shirt has already gone to be with Jesus.
I am at the Memphis Zoo. Riding a Memphis trolley. At the Peabody Hotel. The Botanical Gardens. Graceland.
And I’m praying for you.
Although, frankly, I’m not sure God will answer my prayers because I’m nothing. Truth told, I’m not even a very spiritual person. I don’t pray as often as I should. And if I’m being honest, I mostly pray during national championships.
But I heard about the gunman who drove through your town last night. He was shooting randomized victims. I read about how he walked into an AutoZone and pulled the trigger. Coldhearted. No remorse.
I read about the four he killed. About the terror he inspired.
My friend in Memphis called me last night, during the hourslong rampage. He said the whole town was taking cover.
“It’s weird,” he told me. “It’s like something from a horror movie.”
Memphis buses stopped running. Local television stations interrupted regular broadcasts with live updates. The Memphis Redbirds left the minor-league ballfield. Half the city was messaging each other like crazy, texting things like:
“Are you okay?”
“Yes. But I heard something outside.”
“I’m so scared.”
“So am I.”
And all this comes after a decimating string of violence and murder, Memphis.
Eliza Fletcher. The 34-year-old kindergarten teacher. She was out for a jog. A wife and a mother. Beautiful and fair. Athletic and strong. A 3000-watt smile. Great personality. The kind of teacher who taught her kids to sing “This Little Light of Mine,” and meant it.
She was abducted on her running route. Killed.
Also, the local woman who was shot at her home. A carjacking. Autura Eason-Williams was her name. Fifty-two years young. Pretty. Well-loved. Accomplished. She was a pastor. A reverend at Capeville United Methodist.
She was found in her driveway. Multiple gunshot wounds.
Oh, Memphis. I am praying.
I am praying for the family of Yvonne Nelson, 60, a community activist. She was shot during an argument over money. Of all things.
For the family of Drew Rainer. The Rhodes College student who was one heck of a musician. He was killed last October during a home invasion.
I’m going to level with you, Memphis. Sometimes I’m not sure whether God is even up there listening. How can he be?
How can there be a God when so much evil happens in the world? And if there is a God, why does he allow all hell to break loose?
But when I look at you, Memphis. I see that I am wrong. Dead wrong. There is a God. He is ever present. He is deeply involved in this world. And he is a Memphian.
Your churches have banded together to finish the jogging route Eliza Fletcher began on the morning she was taken.
Tomorrow morning, bright and early, runners all over the nation will complete her jog. Races are being held in her honor, far and wide. Public and private. They’re holding memorial 5Ks as far away as Quebec.
Drew Rainer’s memorial fund has already raised $166,000. Donations are still pouring in. The prayer services for Reverend Eason-Williams were legendary. The whole city is alive with love.
And we who love you can see your incredible light. And you shine it so well, Memphis. And with God’s help, I pray nobody blows it out. I pray you will do what a humble kindergarten teacher once encouraged her students to do. To continue to let your light shine.
Let it shine. Let it shine.
Let it shine.