On Friday afternoon, I found my way over to Yazoo to celebrate a friend's birthday. As we were catching up over local porters and pale ales, the lights began to flicker as if it were last call. Surprised, our table looked at one another and then up at the bar to hear the impending announcement.
One of the brewers stood up and called everyone to attention. "We lost a great Nashvillian, a great man today," he began. My table waited in silence. "John Seigenthaler has passed away," the brewer continued before detailing a short story about how Seigenthaler was a friend and mentor, making Nashville feel like home to him as a new transplant from elsewhere.
This was the first I'd heard about Seigenthaler's death and his reputation in this city is one of the most highly regarded. I'd never met him personally, but had heard him emcee or keynote many events over the years. His legacy is cemented as one who spoke out for civil rights in a time when it was not okay to do so. He personally suffered violence (being beaten by a pipe) in Montgomery. I won't forget him telling that story to a room full of high school students eight years ago.
I did not hear about his death on social media, and I did not hear about his news credentials in this barroom-wide toast. There is always time for broad pronouncements and broad strokes in our lives. What we need are more intimate moments, where legacy isn't shaped by what's in a history book, but rather by what's in a human heart.
After we all raised a glass, those at my table each quickly rattled off a Seigenthaler story, engrossed in this wonderfully "Nashville" moment of shifting conversation from weekend plans to the impact of legacy. Only in Nashville does a room full of Friday afternoon unwinders pause and take a sip for one of our own, one of the brave locals who delicately shaped history.
But none of us need to go out and accomplish great and rare feats in order to be remembered. We don't need to earn prestigious degrees, grow iconic companies, or earn beaucoup bucks if we want the kind of legacy that is cherished and called attention to while locals and tourists alike belly up to a bar.
We only need to reach out and make a friend. We only need to put a shoulder around the new kid and ask if he wants to sit with us. We only need to speak up when something isn't right, offer someone else a slice of our humanity, and help someone take a load off.
Seigenthaler was great at a lot of things, but from the stories now emerging - both at Yazoo and now in the news - he was best at being a friend, listening to others, and doing the right thing.
And all of us want that legacy.