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Daily Memphian
It’s never too late to reclaim hope
December 16, 2018
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

It’s an inner-city neighborhood. It’s an area of burnt-out buildings and crack houses. The signs of homelessness, poverty and violence are etched into the neighborhood and into the faces of those who line up each day at the door to the church’s soup kitchen. It is, for most of them, the only food they have had since the day before, at the same place, at the same time.

The church is next to one of the Jubilee schools. The Jubilee Schools are formerly closed Catholic schools that have been reopened in the inner-city and urban areas of Memphis. These schools serve a population of children caught in the downward cycle of poverty who now have a chance to hope, to dream, to be somebody.

It happened on one of my regular visits to the schools when I was superintendent of Catholic Schools. I parked my car and walked by the line at the church door, greeting those in line as I passed. Some were asleep on the ground and some were leaning against the brick wall.

There was no chatter, no idle talk, while they waited in line for what was their only source of food. There was only a silent resignation to their circumstances.

As I walked toward the school, one of the men in line shouted, “Hey, lady!” I turned around and walked toward the man as he called to me again. He seemed afraid to move for fear of losing his place.

“Yes?” I responded.

“Lady,” he said, “it’s too late for me, but save those kids,” and he pointed to the school. There was hollowness about his face and emptiness in his eyes that spoke of a lifetime of hopelessness. And yet, he thought about the children.

There was enough hope in him for them, for their dreams, for their way out. What happened to this man’s dreams? What led him here? Was there never anyone who believed in him?

“We’re here for the children,” I said, “but it’s never too late for you.” For an instant, hope flashed in his eyes. Maybe it was just a flash of what could be, but it was still there.

Sometimes people come to a point in their lives when the only thing they have left is hope. I believe no matter how tiny the seed of hope is, it can still bloom. Memphis, like all cities, has its challenges addressing the effects of poverty, violence, homelessness, crime, blight and addictions of all kind. But cities don’t have the answers, people do.

Memphis has an abundance of people whose spirit of caring, generosity and commitment to being a neighbor to one another is a source of hope and new beginnings for those most in need. In this 901 area, we are addicted to hope. Individuals, organizations, churches, clubs, businesses, whether known or anonymous, reach out with hands and hearts to bring hope, a positive difference and a new life to others.

I have seen it in action and know it is true. It is never too late to reclaim hope for one another.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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