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VOL. 131 | NO. 245 | Friday, December 9, 2016

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Giving is a Gift


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ORDINARILY EXTRAORDINARY. If you ask one, what makes Memphians special is nothing special.

We do hard well. We work hard, play hard. We come by what we have by the hardest – and here’s the thing – we share ours with people who have it harder.

In my experience, we do that organically. We respond to need not as a concept but as somebody helping somebody. We may rail about this or that government giveaway or worthless program, and do that while we stand side-by-side building somebody a house who wouldn’t have one otherwise. We may have close to nothing with nothing more on the way, but we’ll cook what we have and stand all day serving it to people who have less. We may have challenges with our own children, our own worries about their future, but we’ll take the pain of another family as our own and the easing of that pain as our responsibility.

Take my friend, Dick Cockrell.

Dick is a pretty typical Memphian of our generation. The quarterback of our high school team, he went on to play for and graduate from then Memphis State, married a high school classmate, and stayed here to work and raise his family. We have kids the same age who graduated from that same high school. He and I play golf together with the same lack of skill.

Dick would tell you he’s nothing special. Jafeth Gomez would differ. So would Natalia De Sedes.

When Dick retired recently from a career in commercial food services, he started volunteering for Gift Of Life Mid-South, a Rotarian project to bring children here for lifesaving surgery not available where they live, not even imaginable. In October, 3-year-old Jafeth Gomez came to Le Bonheur for heart surgery from Honduras. This month, 2 1/2-year-old Natalia De Sedes will come from Panama to put her heart in the hands of Le Bonheur. They are the 70th and 71st families hosted by Gift Of Life Mid-South, “Saving Children One Heart At A Time.”

That’s not to say what they do is any more important than all the other lifesaving things that happen in Memphis, nor is Dick any more responsible for their success than any of the other volunteers and donors. He will be, in fact, mad that I singled him out and it will cost me a beer, possibly two, while he names others.

That’s the point.

He’s not doing it for credit and if it weren’t for another beer a while back and my question, I wouldn’t have known about what he’s doing at all.

The same month Jafeth was here for his heart, doctors at Le Bonheur successfully performed a heart transplant on a 20-month-old baby, and successfully separated conjoined twins in an 18-hour procedure.

And any given day at St. Jude is filled with miracles.

These things and the people who make them possible are typical in Memphis.

Nothing special, true. They are nothing short of extraordinary.

I’m a Memphian, and you’re damn right that’s special.

Dan Conaway, a communication strategist and author of “I’m a Memphian,” can be reached at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

PROPERTY SALES 61 61 6,453
MORTGAGES 46 46 4,081
BUILDING PERMITS 113 113 15,474
BANKRUPTCIES 19 19 3,289