Choosing to Notice

By Peyton Williams, OTN Intern

On one of my first outreach days with Open Table Nashville, we drove through town delivering tarps, tents and supplies to various camps around the city. I was surprised when we pulled up to an office park, walked across the street and ducked under bushes to find a friend’s tent tucked away by the roadside. It baffled me that hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people drove by her campsite every day but would never know or expect that she had made a home there. Over the past few weeks, I have visited friends in various tucked-away spaces. Most of these spots are not hard to find, but you would never know they were there unless you were looking for them. It’s a strange feeling to leave a campsite and turn the corner to find tourists walking the streets or to realize you’ve driven by that spot dozens of times but never noticed. It is disorienting, sort of like that feeling you get after coming home from a long trip – that feeling when everything looks the same but feels just a little bit different.

When I began working with Open Table Nashville, my lens shifted in a similar way. The Nashville I
thought I knew – full of new developments, top universities, delicious food and endless entertainment – grew suddenly unfamiliar as I started to take notice of the people and the places I had once ignored.

So many of our friends at Open Table Nashville occupy these unnoticed spaces. They walk the same streets and share this same city, but too often we refuse to share in their realities. Too often we walk our own straight and narrow paths and ignore those in our peripheral vision. Sure it’s simpler, easier and cleaner cut, but lives are at stake and we cannot continue to walk on by. As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, we have to pay attention. Our friends will freeze and lives will be lost because we choose not to notice. So let’s choose to keep our eyes open and wide. Let’s choose to see the injustices that surround us and listen to the voices that are too often silenced and ignored. Let’s choose to see our city and our streets for all that they are – nooks and crannies and margins included.

Let’s choose to notice.


Want to help us take care of our friends this winter? These are the things we need! To arrange drop-off, email