Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Minnesota Nice

    I hope you have a simply wonderful day
     and a very happy and joy-filled new year!
                                         [Charlie Leck]

“It’s a gift to be simple! It’s a gift to be free. It’s a gift to come down where you ought to be. And when we find ourselves in the place just right, we’ll be in the valley of love and delight!”
by Charlie Leck

“When true simplicity is gained,
  To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
  To turn, turn, will be our delight,
  Till by turning, turning we come round right.”
                                                [An old Shaker tune]

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard visitors to Minnesota say the following: “It’s true! There really is a Minnesota nice!”

Well, yes! It is basically true. Minnesotans take pride in the little saying. By and large – or for the most part – Minnesotans try to act kindly toward each other and especially toward visitors. Believe me, there are exceptions! And sometimes they are blatant and embarrassing exceptions!

If you’re reading this from some other state and you come on up here to visit Minnesota, you will sense it. You’ll sense it at the airport, where people seem to be calmer and not so hurried and willing to allow a passenger who is late for a plane to move to the front of the line. People are calm in the long lines that lead to the security scanners and very often you’ll begin a real conversation with the people near you in line. You’ll learn about a perfect stranger's dear Aunt Tilly and the gout she has developed. Now, I can sense that most of you are saying: “Who wants to know?” And that is exactly my point. Minnesotans do!

I wouldn’t have dared write this little blog about Minnesota Nice until this morning. Now there is some documented support and I can have the courage of a lion about the matter.

It was right there in the newspaper this morning – there, under the Merry Christmas banner: “Yes, Virginia, Minnesota really is nice!

A recent study, called “Civic Life in America: Findings on the Civic Health of the Nation,” point to Minnesota and its special set of values. The Corporation for National and Community Service (NCOC) released the study this month. The study looked at volunteering, for example, and found, as it always does, that Minnesota is at the top. They looked at things like services to disabled or aged neighbors. They found it is common in Minnesota for one to regularly shovel the walk and the driveway for a neighbor who isn’t up to doing it. Little things like that, although the study points to many more indicators both like that and much more complex, are what make Minnesota nice.

Membership in civic clubs is higher in Minnesota than anywhere else in the nation. Volunteerism is higher here than anywhere else. And though it might not seem part of the bit, voting by registered voters is always higher here in Minnesota than in any other state – even as it was in this past election. New Hampshire and Vermont came close, but we still took home first prize for voter participation.

Another little something with which the study doesn’t deal, but I personally think is a real indicator, is the fact that Minnesota has been named the most Gay-Friendly state in the nation and Minneapolis was named the most accepting city in the nation of gay and lesbian people.

I cannot tell you how many times I (and I am not unusual) have stopped alongside the highway to help someone who had obviously run out of gas. I’d give him a ride to a gas station so he could purchase a container of gas; and then I’d run him back to his car. Dozens of times over the years I’ve helped someone like that or someone who had a flat and was physically unable to change it. It’s not just I! It’s common here. One takes pride in it as a Minnesotan.

I stopped at a food shelf this week to contribute a couple bags of canned goods and to leave a small check. I had to wait in line! And, I was glad there was a line. It was a good line, filled with friendly, smiling, laughing and conversant people.

“Shoot man! Isn’t this somethin’ though?”

“You betcha!”

We talk like that here in Minnesota when we’re talking to each other. “Don’tcha know?”

I slipped into the rear entrance of the Lutheran Church on Sunday. It’s a little church up here on the corner. We don’t go there, but I like the pastor and her involvement in community affairs and the sense of service she has. While the service was going on – the congregation was singing away – I knew I could slip in unseen. I put a little gift on the pastor’s desk – for her and her family. It was our way of saying thank you to her for being such a good neighbor and such a danged nice person.

It’s one of the things I love about my state. And, it’s not that we don’t have problems. We do! We haven’t really solved this racial justice thing yet and we haven't figured out how to make our schools work as they should. But, we are a kinder and gentler people and I often find myself counting on that.

We heard just yesterday of a woman who was going to be alone on Christmas Day. I ran into someone in a little shop who was on our guest list for Christmas dinner. We laughed and chatted together. She told me she was on her way to see her friend, Clare.

“Clare will be alone tomorrow,” my friend said, “so I want to go visit her today.”

“Alone,” I said. “Well invite her to the house for dinner. Pick her up and bring her along. There’s always room for another.”

That’s common stuff up here. When it’s cold like this, it’s always better to be closer together.

“You betcha, anyway there!”


Kevin Kling is one of those nice Minnesotans – one of the nicest of them all. A friend of mine told me about Kevin this week. I didn’t know that much about him. I hadn’t seen any of his documentaries or read any of his essays or stories. When I got filled up with information about Kevin it just made me feel better all over about myself and my state and my neighbors. He is a nationally known story-teller and he's the author of The Dog Says How and Holiday Inn and also Big Little Brother.

You can read a very special story by Kevin, which was also published in this morning’s edition of our local newspaper. It will make you feel grander about life and yourself. It’s my Christmas gift to all my friends and readers. It’s called: A Gift!

I hope all of you have a grand new year – a wonderful, wonderful 2013.

[Corrections made on 26 December 2012, 6:00 A.M. CST]

Why not become a follower?
If you read my blog regularly, why not become a follower? All you have to do is click in the upper right hand corner and establish a simple means of communication. Then you'll be informed every time a new blog is posted here. If all that's confusing, here's Google's explanation of how to do it! If you don’t want to post comments on the blog, but would like to communicate with me about it, send me an email if you’d like.

No comments:

Post a Comment