Leaving Legacies of Peace and Compassion
As a madman is aggressively on the march in Eastern Europe, our community just lost an incredible servant leader and peace advocate with the passing of Tallu Schuyler Quinn at the young age of 42. Tallu was a Nashville native, a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and the founder of The Nashville Food Project, a thriving non-profit that first started at Woodmont Christian Church and is now headquartered in The Nations. She had a heart for the poor, a passion for justice, and a drive to bring people of all backgrounds together. She could light up a room with her smile and laugh.
In late summer of 2020, she was suddenly diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer. Yet in the face of her ongoing treatment and struggle, surgery, chemo, radiation, and trials, she continued to inspire all of us with her courage and resolve. She has a book coming out in a few weeks titled, “What We Wish Were True: Reflections on Nurturing Life and Facing Death,” where she processes how she faced her death with courage and faith. She leaves behind her loving husband Robbie and two amazing young children Lulah (9) and Thomas (7). I first met Tallu almost thirty years ago at church camp, where we became fast friends. When we lose somebody we love, we tend to pause and think about the bigger picture of life. What is our purpose? Why are we here? What should we spend our time doing? What difference are we making? Socrates claimed, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Unfortunately, many people never stop to ask these questions. It is possible to live a busy life and never ask deeper questions about what matters most. Having known Tallu for many years, she was always examining the mission and purpose of her life and she challenged others to do the same. She saw a need in our community, hunger, and access to healthy food, and she built a missional organization to address it. She lived the words of Jesus when he said, “Just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”
David Brooks talks about how we live in a world that glorifies “resume virtues” (money, achievement, worldly success) but when it’s all said and done, “eulogy virtues” are what really matter. Were we loving, compassionate, authentic, a good spouse, a good friend? Did we make a difference and leave the world a better place? Were we humble, kind, and empathetic? Many spend decades chasing success and wealth and once they achieve it, recognize it is not as glamorous as they once dreamed. Far fewer actually stop and reflect upon matters of deeper significance and virtue. It is possible to be successful in a career but still fail when it comes to personal relationships. Many have learned this the hard way and it can be painful. Who knows how things are going to play out on the global stage in the coming days, but Tallu reminds us we all have a chance to bring peace and goodwill to others in our community. At the close of her memorial service, I shared the timeless words of John Wesley who famously said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” That’s the way she lived.
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