I just spent a very nice weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.

The town was alive with activity, people shopping and eating and truly enjoying themselves.  On this short respite, I had the pleasure of driving the -country trip with two friends that have lived in Memphis their entire lives – one an African American who by any account has given his heart and soul back to this community.  He built a nonprofit in south Memphis second to none.  A true humanitarian who believes “service first” is the best policy to live by.

The other person was a Caucasian who spent more than 35 years working for government and has spent his retirement years figting urban sprawl and trying to protect the community in which he lives.

Over the course of the 24-hour round trip drive, our conversation often turned to Memphis and Shelby County: the fact that most people do not want to live in this community and even if their neighborhood is nice, they still want their children to seek their fortunes elsewhere.  People are scared of crime, despite that fact that many have never actually encountered it.  They are concerned that their taxes are too high, yet they do nothing to fix government, and when presented with opportunities to consider doing things differently, many people just assert that it doesn’t matter and that if things don’t improve, they will just move.

The most startling observation of the trip was that both my friends, people that have been fighting the good fight for longer than I have been alive, said they were actually planning on moving themselves.

And this was not just some veiled threat.  One had been looking at houses out West and the other was considering moving to Nashville or another city with lower taxes and more community engagement.  It seemed to me that they had finally reached their breaking point.  I was sad, angry and frustrated.

Had the naysayers finally won?  Were all the people that said there is no hope in this community that we shouldn’t even try to build a better community right?  Should we all just quit and accept the fact that cities like Nashville, Louisville, Denver and Atlanta, all cities that use to pale in comparison, are simply better than us?

I normally like long drives.  They give me a chance to decompress and get caught up with the lives of my traveling partners, be it family or friends.

But this trip was different.  It began to dawn on me that my wife and I really have no ties to Memphis.  No family within an 8-hour drive and our jobs are easily transferable to another community – everyone needs those awful attorneys!  We weren’t born here and we have only lived here about 10 years.  We truly could pick up and move.  Move to a community with less crime, better schools and a community where the infighting does not stifle progress.

So why don’t we?  This question plagued me until I asked my wife what we are doing here.  She simply said…we love the people and the city.  And it’s true.  We have met some of the greatest people we have ever known right here in Shelby County.  And this is coming from two people that have lived all over the world.

My wife was an Oxford Scholar and White House Intern.  I was an officer in the military and studied and lived in Spain.  Between us, we have lived in 10 different states and 3, and we can say that the people that live here are second to none.   We love our friends and the life we have.

Yes, there are issues, and yes, they are big ones.  But we are not going to simply move way.  Instead, we are going to do whatever it takes to build bridges in this community and stop the infighting and political posturing that hold us back as a community.

Before my friends decide that there is no hope, that together we cannot possibly build a better community than what we have, we need to remind ourselves that the human spirit can do anything it sets it collective mind to accomplish.  We have been to the moon and we have transformed our world with new technology.

Surely, we can correct the course of this community.  I ask each you to join us in building a better community and no longer accept that people have to leave Memphis and Shelby County to find happiness.

We can find it here.  Together.