In 2013, Char and her husband were photographing Clayborn Temple, a home base of the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers strike. As they were leaving, they saw a woman sweeping the sidewalk in front of the apartment building across the street. She stopped and waved at them. Char could tell that the woman wanted to talk and said to her husband, “let’s go say ‘hi.’” Her husband was moved to take a photo of them that day because, he said, they were “like magnets.” Char cherishes that first-day-we-met photo because she was soon to learn how camera shy her new friend Frances was.
Four years later, from inside Clayborn Temple, Char shares with us some stories of their loving friendship and what she has learned from it. Since the first day they met in Memphis at the corner of Pontotoc and Hernando near the spot where Frances had once stood to listen to Dr. King’s speech inside Clayborn Temple, the two friends have seen each other most days. Sometimes they shopped for the right color flower for Frances’s hair or the perfect gift to satisfy Frances’s desire to be generous with everyone; many times they went to the grocery or laundromat or doctors appointments. They have shared special occasions and meals together.
Char, who lost her mother in 2005, says Frances became a mother figure for her. Char has taken care of Frances through illnesses and hospitalizations during the past year and worked to find the right long-term care facility for her friend. When Frances was not able to take care of her dog, Char took care of him, too.
Frances has shown Char the importance of community and taught her many valuable lessons: to pause and slow down, to extend yourself to include others, and to make everyone around you count.
Char teaches us that when we “lean in to people that are different from us, socioeconomically, and emotionally, and racially, it grows us. And it creates this love that our community so desperately needs, to do some long overdue healing.” We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.