Friday, I visited two of our neighbors in need. I was welcomed in to offer a little encouragement. Hospitality reigns on our block in Orange Mound.
One was applying Clorox to her children’s bedding to stay ahead of bed bugs, and the state. Bugs in residence rival the roof-rats and roaches trying to get in. Windows are in place, but the glass is missing. Too many friends and family have keys to the back door, which really could be pushed off broken hinges easily with no need for a key. The open hearts of our neighbors defy the living space within which they reside. Many nights there are way more people than beds sleeping over.
The other friend was waiting for Memphis Light Gas & Water (MLGW) to turn her power on after a month of no lights, oven, or air-conditioning. MLGW holds the spigot for fresh water as well. She was behind on utilities but paid up on rent.
What she pays per month surely could and should cover the many unsightly flaws in the house, but landlords don’t have the means or choose not to address the united need: to paint up and fix up. I don’t get it. I have few answers for the broken systems in poverty, so I listened. We are neighbors, and neighbors need each other.
These modest homes would be considered eye sores in many other neighborhoods in Memphis but are quite unremarkable in this one. Anyone would drive along the boring ride quite disinterested in the inelegant scenery.
However, there is a two-story Victorian house at the end of a block, within which much is happening. Aromas of lavender, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom and more waft throughout the spacious rooms as Orange Mound ladies working in the tea company open boxes of blended and virgin teas shipped in from all over the world. Laughter and the singing of hymns keep the hearts upbeat and the work pace in rhythm. In the yard, flowers, green grass, and cultivated vegetables are boasting of their irresistible glory and summer bounty. Another charitable endeavor has brought rocking chairs to the porch. Noble women come daily with food for all. The faithful come and teach and pray. Saintly leaders in Memphis from all walks of life share their resources in myriad ways. Hospitality has a broader definition on this corner.
Outside, the sleepy neighborhood, whose senses are dulled by the lack of opportunity and abundance of time has awakened to the news that My Cup of Tea has come to stay in this community. Women are trained, employed, and cared for here. They take their earnings home along with guidance and encouragement from friends in their new circle of trust. Their homes resemble the same I visited on Friday, waiting for paint, power, and protection, but there is a confidence among them that it will surely come. Secure housing is on the horizon, because the hospitality is already in place.
“The whole city celebrates when the righteous succeed.” - Proverbs 11:10
I have learned the righteous in the Bible are not the sinless or sanctified but the ones who serve Jesus and are engaged in activity where He is working. There is no doubt He has chosen to set up camp in Orange Mound.
Listen closely now, for the celebration is about to begin and you don’t want to miss out. There will be dancing in the streets, and they will be drinking fancy blends of imported tea.