Mid-South Hero: Man finds healing in cleaning local neighborhoods

Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 6:23 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Kind, caring, and passionate about his community - this month’s Mid-South Hero is the ultimate neighbor.

“God put this in my heart. That’s why I do it. I don’t get paid, but I get paid in another way. I get joy from pleasing God, that’s my payment. And that’s all I need.”

Chris Fleming’s family has lived in this house off of Windemere Road for over 70 years. Living in the neighborhood for that long created some core memories for Chris.

“My uncle would drive down, James Road was just a two-lane road at the time, and he would take me down to the 7/11 down here and give me a quarter to buy candy…and that’s a fond memory, but I’d drive down that street, there wouldn’t be any trash – it was beautiful,” he said.

Over the years, the streets surrounding Chris’s neighborhood got busier and messier.

“Old mattresses, old furniture, and stuff, and I’ve seen buses just stop out there and clean their buses out…and they would just push the trash out on the road.”

After a head-on collision sent Chris to the hospital with severe whiplash, he had a life-changing experience.

“…I laid in a bed for six days, and I had to turn every couple of minutes because I was in so much pain. And on the 7th day, I cried out, I said, ‘Father,’ I said, ‘Help me!’ I said I will do whatever you want me to do Father, and as soon as those words came out of my mouth, the pain totally went away… I wasn’t totally healed, but he allowed me to sustain what I was going through... and he put it in my heart to go out here and pick up this trash, and that’s why I do it, to please my Father in heaven.”

For years now, Chris has been seen on the side of the road along James Road, Highland, Austin Peay, and several other streets surrounding his neighborhood picking up trash, no matter the weather.

“I’ve seen him when in weather below thirty degrees, I’ve seen him when it’s raining, I’ve seen him morning, I’ve seen him evening, I’ve seen him in the afternoon…all types of weather, man, he’s out there. "

“Just imagine if every neighborhood had a Chris Fleming in their neighborhood.”

“If I had a Chris in my neighborhood, because Chris keeps these streets clean… I personally would go around and pick up funds for his gas if he kept the neighborhood clean, seriously!”

Even with multiple sclerosis, Chris has vowed to push through his pain to keep the neighborhood clean.

“God sustains me through the pain. Because I do suffer, but that suffering, I often think about how Christ suffered on the cross for me, and it doesn’t compare… “I’m in pain a lot of times when I’m picking it up, but God sustains me to pick it up. Because I know that’s what he wants me to do. He wants us to live clean, he wants us to appreciate what he’s given us. It’s a gift… he gave us this place to live, and he gave us all the trees and the birds and everything that’s here was put here for us… and I’m gonna keep doing it as long as I can. But I will promise I will be out there every day doing it as long as I can. And it doesn’t matter how many pieces of trash, how many beer cans, how many whiskey bottles, it doesn’t matter, cigarettes, I’ll pick it up.”.”

Congratulations Chris, you are this month’s Mid-South Hero!

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