Olivia Newport Underside of Plane

Photo by Belinda Hayden Fairbanks

A couple of years ago I worked with someone in Memphis on a writing project, and recently he invited me to hear about what they’re up to these days. So I went to Memphis. I listened to brilliant people explain their dreams for their city on the theme of health and wellness. Aside from the head-spinning details of this potential project, here’s what I brought home from Memphis.

1. People dream big. It’s inspiring. I’m a nose-to-the-grindstone kind of person, and the world needs people like me. But listening to people dream of doing something awesome for their city reminded me that once in a while I should lift my eyes from today’s to-do list and let a mammoth dream suck the breath out of me.

2. People are better together. This particular undertaking for the good of Memphis is a web of strategic partnerships. The parties involved know they need each other if they are going to make this happen. My own life is also better together—stronger if I am sharing it richly and authentically with others.

3. People are generous. This project will cost a lot—in time, money, and personal engagement. A passion for health and wellness—and seeing people the way God sees them—is the engine that makes the participants willing to do what it is going to take. What am I willing to engage in with that kind of energy and sacrificial resources?

4. People are proud. Not in an arrogant hubris way, but in a team spirit way. As a city, Memphis is fraught with economic and social woes, but people who live there embrace the challenges and engage with solving them. They belong to Memphis, and you’d better not get in their way. I admire that bulldog spirit.

5. People read books. I had four air travel legs on this trip, two in each direction. Trying to travel light, I opted to take an iPod with the audiobook I was in the middle of, and of course my laptop, for onboard entertainment. I stuck a slim magazine in my backpack for those brief periods of time when the airlines want everything powered off, but I did not pack a printed book.

Well. I exhausted the magazine before the first leg of my trip lifted off. Three out of four legs featured mechanical issues in the aircrafts that showed up after closing the door and pushing back from the gate. I spent a lot of time on runways powered off and waiting for mechanics to do their thing.

I envied all those people with good old-fashioned books—and wondered if it would it be outrageously inappropriate to ask them to tear out the pages they were finished with and pass them to me.

But the delays gave me time to put my head back and dream of dreaming big. They created space to consider the web of generous, inspired, team-spirited people who partner with me to keep my own life aloft.

Wherever your life is flying these days, I hope you’re chasing joy. I hope you are not alone. I hope that together, you and the significant people in your life can hold the vision you share high above the doldrums that might drown it.

And for Pete’s sake, take a book. (And in May, perhaps consider this one.)