Photo: John Partipilo

Seeking Restoration in An IT City 

My husband and I were married under a huge oak tree in Florida three years ago. One of my close friends was preforming the ceremony and every word had been perfectly crafted to be unique to my relationship with my partner and what we believe our purpose and calling is. In lieu of more traditional scriptures, we felt one in particular encompasses what we hope to see come to fruition through our marriage and our lives, individually and as a team.

You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You’ll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

How beautiful is that? It speaks to the restoration of broken things. It speaks to beauty and potential in areas that are portrayed as forgotten and wasted. As our heartbeats are for our friends on the streets, those overlooked and under resourced, resilient yet struggling… this verse felt like an echo of the desires that swirl in my heart on a daily basis.

Make the community livable again. Those are words that probably do not often come to mind when people think and talk about Nashville, TN. Terms like IT City, Up and Coming, nightlife and music scene smother articles about our growing city.

But there is an underground of Nashville. One littered with past due utility balances and eviction notices. One where people of color and people in poverty are being forced out to make room for the affluent. We see the brokenness that occurs when profit is valued over people. When this happens we miss out on the talents, experience and beauty that the displaced offer to our community.

A community can not be considered livable if it is not livable for all. Even in the shadows of Nashville’s progress this passage still haunts me, encourages me, and challenges me more than ever before.

A quick Google search shows the value of the following things when determining the livability for a city: “Infrastructure and natural environment, social programs, recreational opportunities, educational opportunities, support for mental health and marginalized populations” (Cities for People). Cites like “Livable City” echo these values and also emphasize the necessity of affordability, specifically related to housing, to maintain the diversity and livability of a community.

I invite you to dream with us about what a truly “livable” Nashville would look like. Perhaps one where a grandmother with three grandchildren has a place alongside a talented businessman. One where a person on the street’s voice and needs are considered by our leadership and not blighted out by developers promising the highest dollar.

What does a city’s livability look like to you? How can we seek restoration in an “It City” who has left so many behind?

Elizabeth Langgle-Martin
Street Outreach and Resource Navigator