A year ago, I was standing in a soup kitchen with faltering air-conditioning packed full of people carrying all their possessions in torn, plastic grocery bags. They poured their hearts out to me, telling me their life stories and how they ended up without a home. With tears in my eyes, I eagerly listened; my heart was heavy with despair and filled with sympathy for those not as fortunate as I was.
The soup kitchen I served in was situated smack-dab in the middle of Music Row, where some of the most famous and successful country music has been written and produced. Turn the corner and you’re facing a skyscraper topped off with Taylor Swift’s cushy penthouse apartment.
I had been asked the most common question last year when kids got itchy with excitement for summer: “What are you doing over break?” When I told my friends that I was going to Nashville for a mission trip, I received some uncertain looks. When the word “Nashville” is thrown around, the image of curly-haired stars dressed in five-hundred-dollar cowboy boots and sparkly dresses comes to mind. Hardly anyone imagines meager beggars pleading for the spare change in your pocket so they can buy a meal for their kids.
This weekend, my family and I are taking a trip to the capital of southern music once again, only this time we’re not beginning our trek in a hot, crammed church van. We won’t be scooping food onto the less fortunate’s plates. We won’t be crying alongside those who need comfort and support.
We’re succumbing to the widely known tourist side of Nashville. But while I’m lying in a fluffy bed in the luxury of the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be thinking about those sleeping on the filthy, hard cement sidewalks just on the outskirts of the city.
Sometimes we forget about the condition of others besides our own. We live in this tiny bubble; our biggest problem is a miniscule crack on our iPhones or, Heaven forbid, the DVR messing up the recording of our favorite show. When we go to a Red’s game or take a stroll down the streets of Cincinnati on our way to watch a musical at the Aronoff Center, we pass by someone sitting on the side of the road and think, “Oh, that’s sad.” But do we do anything?
I encourage you to take a step into their worn down shoes and look at things from a perspective different from your own, because while Nashville will always be an iconic, glitzy, country music city, I will forever remember it as the town of heartbreak and unfortunate situations.