hen I was young, we had a priest who, when he wasn’t drinking Guinness or playing rugby, did some priestly things. He was exactly the stereotype of Irish Catholic—sporting, drinking, fanatical. But he had a good heart and a soul of gold. He talked to us about how faith meant being present, responding to the call, supporting those who need our love and kindness and grace.
When Faith and its companions Love and Grace are involved, problems sometimes have a way of working themselves out.
In December of 2012, when I was expecting to relocate to Memphis with my wife and two young daughters, I received the stark message from US Immigration that I would not receive the type of visa that would allow me to live and work in the US for the long term.
I was genuinely scared.
As I often do at times of stress, I took our family’s two yellow Labradors for a walk. We strolled down to a canal, part of a system of manmade inland waterways dating back to the time of the Industrial Revolution. Coal and other goods were shifted around England on barges in the canals, while humans and animals walked on the adjoining towpaths to tow the barges through. Now the canals and towpaths are used for leisure purposes.
As I walked down a towpath, I saw something familiar on the side of one of the boats. I recognized it, but it was out of place, so it took me a few moments to make sense of it—like you might feel if you saw the queen or the president on your street. I got closer and realized it was the logo of Memphis institution Sun Studios, where musical legends like Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, and Jerry Lee Lewis got their starts.
I walked closer still, and there were three letters emblazoned on the side of this boat – the acronym TCB. Taking Care of Business, Elvis’s personal motto.
Finally, I was close enough to read the nameplate of the canal boat.
Sun Studios, TCB, and Graceland.
These three iconic symbols of Memphis, found unexpectedly on an otherwise unremarkable canal boat in the interior of the United Kingdom, moved me more than I have words to explain. After a moment of great sadness that I could not go to Memphis, I was—I believe—sent a message that, my plans for Memphis weren’t doomed after all. There was a bigger picture.
We still had to work our way through the immigration maze, but eventually we arrived in Memphis, where our younger daughter enjoys preschool and our older daughter is preparing to run the world, something I think she will be very good at.
In my career I’ve been looking for a place I can connect who I am to where we can be present, where we can serve, where we can show love.