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Midday Matinee – Community

March 21, 2012

Midday Matinee

Midday Matinee – Community

Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

Minnesota Public Radio has been running a series on whether the idea of “Minnesota Nice” is a reality or a myth. The myth is that we are a polite bunch of people who will stop to help a stranded motorist or patiently give directions. This is sometimes true. The myth is we are our own version of the welcome wagon greeting new comers with casseroles or home made meals. I did this for my new neighbors but I guess it doesn’t happen so much anymore. The myth is that we are warm and inclusive. Oops.

New comers to the state were interviewed and called in over the course of a week. They had a decidedly different take on being new to the state. They had invited people over for dinner and waited but were never invited back. They talked about cultural, athletic, and other event opportunities being about the same as NYC or Atlanta without the friendships. They spoke also of the difficulty of making friends. A few corporations had started buddy programs to retain employees new to the area because they recognized the difficulty of moving to a new city.

The real question was “Can I belong here?” Or, “How do I join this community?” This question must be as old as tribes.

The idea of community teams is at the heart of OFA. Obama was, after all, a community organizer. Some parts of the model are right on and leverage what we at BPI call Fred Whispering. Other parts assume a neighborhood cohesion that may or may not exist.

Listening to the callers who were new to the area prompted me to call in. “I have advice for the newcomers. Volunteer for the OFA ( I used Obama for America and not Organizing for America because it ties it to our candidate) or the DFL (Democrat Farmer Labor) and you will find at least one welcoming community. We are looking for people to make phone calls or enter data. We range in age from young students to people well into their 80′s. We are both sexes and all races, GLBT and straight, married and single, employed, unemployed and retired. This is the place to be welcomed and to belong. You can join us and we need you. This is without a doubt the most diverse group I have ever been a part of. Just a thought.”

I have no idea if this call-in comment generated any new volunteers, but a seed was planted. It is the seed that is at the core of our Democratic values. Each person is important and we are all in this together.

Reader Comments Welcome.

  • NCrissieB

    Joining your local OFA or Democratic Party group is a great way to meet people, and a great thing to do even if you’re not a newcomer to an area.

    That said, I wonder how MPR defined “newcomers,” how they selected newcomers to contact, how many newcomers they contacted, and where the newcomers lived. The show’s callers were self-selected, and self-selected samples are much less likely to be representative. In other words, don’t give up on the ‘myth’ of Minnesota Nice yet. MPR may not have had a representative sample and/or the newcomers may have been too new to have made friends.

  • winterbanyan

    That’s very interesting, addisnana. I’ve found wherever I go that it takes time to really get to know people and become part of a neighborhood. On the other hand, if you join an active organization you get to know people more quickly, perhaps because you start with a common interest. :)

    It’s hard to become part of a settled community when you’re new. It’s hard to become part of a community where everyone is new and moving frequently. You made a nice effort to give folks a starting point for getting engaged. That was the whole point of taking the casserole next door.

    Thanks for a thoughtful piece.

  • addisnana

    Here’s a link to the MPR page if you are curious. There isn’t a precise definition of a new comer. Here’s a fruit analogy from a swede now living in Minnesota:

    “Americans are like peaches. They have this nice, soft outer shell that’s easy to penetrate. And there’s a tight, hard core that’s hard to get underneath,” she told me. “Swedes are kind of like oranges. It’s a thick, hard peel at first, but there’s a big soft mushy inside.”

    In other words, once you get to know a Swede, “we tend to be very open about our lives,” Falk said. “With Americans, it’s easy to get to know them, but hard to make American friends.”