My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit

My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit

Diverse Community
Our global and local neighbors – Immigrants living in Worthington, MN.

My town is different than your town. You might go many places and travel far and wide. I have an interesting community that allows me to enjoy the far flung reaches of the world…..right in my own back yard.

Recently the news is all about “immigration” and our national concerns for security. I find “security” in my own back yard and in my community. Before you respond to the hype and fear about immigration (legal or undocumented) let me tell you about my community.

I am a small business man that has modestly prospered in this curious setting. I have come to embrace the fine people that are immigrating to my community. They have become the life blood that has allowed our community to continue to prosper….in a time when the demographics are completely against us.

Our community is located just south of the mythical “Lake Wobegone”and we typify those demographic characteristics.

Our accommodation of the newest immigrants started about 25 years ago with the Vietnamese and Laotian peoples. It has continued throughout the decades and has been of great benefit to this community, a community that would have demographically drifted off the charts…because of an aging population.
Many of my Lao and Vietnamese friends are here…because they stood up for “American Ideals” and risked both their lives and the lives of their families, much to their credit. In quiet moments, I have heard their stories….it has brought tears to my eyes….. I have a profound respect for them. American Idealism?…I have not sacrificed, like they have sacrificed. If they would tell you their stories….you would have a new found respect for the immigrant experience. Immigration doesn’t happen because “things are dandy!” Immigration happens because people are at the limits of their own (moral) tolerance.

Today , I can take my 3 block walk to work and say “hello” in numerous & different languages. Sai Bai Dee (Lao), Buenos Dias (Mexico, Guatemalan,El Salvador ), De Tu Jot (Sudanese) Djow Go (Vietnamese), Ka May La ha (Eithiopean) mengalaba (Karen) its is perhaps a crude rendition of their languages….but it allows me a comfort zone with my new neighbors. I have them sign an atlas in my store….it allows me the ability to understand where they have come from and often times it allows me to understand some of their travails. They all enjoy and appreciate my attempt to speak in their native tongue(they laugh at me) , as they continue to become assimilated into our community. We are a small community and we strive to make sure that know one is anonymous.

Assimilate…..they have! I am convinced that these new found immigrants have saved my community. They have purchased homes, they have purchased cars, they have kept our grocery stores busy. They have created their own grocery stores. Many have started their own businesses, some try and some fail….for that I think more of them, not less. They are the new graduates at the local community college. They have become the New Worthington. There might be a few people that consider this immigration a threat…..those folks are prone to fear and loss of their standing within their perceived place within our community. The good news is that the majority of folks around these parts recognize that this “immigration thing” is of great value to our community!

Immigrants in Worthington, MN
Bill Keitel writing about people in his community.

If you are looking for the latest trendy shopping mall or strip mall (filled with brand named stores) this might not be the place for you. We do have many standardized big box stores, however if you are looking for a real “WORLD MARKET” experience, I encourage you to come and visit Worthington.

It won’t be completely “standardized” with all the generic brand name stores….but if you have a truly adventuresome spirit…..you can enjoy a “real” World Market experience. Ma and Pa stores are sprouting up as we speak…..and they are the new entrepreneurial spirit of Worthington.

Immigration has never been “clean and tidy”, it has a “learning curve”. My community, Worthington has stepped up to the plate and embraced that spirit of accommodation. We learn from our friends, we learn from our new found immigrants, we learn from being able to say….”I don’t understand you, explain to me… again” that is what it means to be accommodating….We aren’t afraid to understand our new neighbors. We recognize that “They” are our new beginnings. We have been re-invented and though we do make mistakes….we recover and strive to learn from them.   We have every reason to stand tall and be proud.

Worthington has benefited from its new found immigrants and I suspect….history will eventually write a new chapter about this community and its “Accommodating Spirit.”

Bill Keitel
Worthington MN.

(reprint Eventos Magazine-Minnesota )

One Reply to “My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit”

  1. Thank you, Bill. I saw your comment today on the City Pages article about ISAIAH (a link for those coming here of their own volition can find that article here: http://www.citypages.com/news/the-kindness-revolt-a-not-so-secret-plot-to-make-a-better-minnesota/), and now I am here reading your blog post. I made the comment before yours on that post, and spoke of being raised in rural areas. Well, my family came from Worthington. My dad’s parents moved there from Ely and my mom’s from Aberdeen, SD. They raised six children between them there, and I spent many a weekend there at my mom’s parents’ house at 224 Hagge St. (My dad’s parents had already retired in 1978 when I was born and split their time between Mesa, AZ and Ely). Now, not a one of them live there. An uncle in Iowa, one in Fergus, one I don’t know where because I don’t want to. My parents are just outside of Montevideo and have been there since we moved there in when I was in high school, in 1994.

    I remember my mom’s family growing increasingly agitated about the “foreigners” and family gatherings were rife with jokes about them spending money on sports cars and clothing but they were on food stamps, etc, you know how a bigot loves his conjecture. I’m sure almost none of it was true. I know that it wasn’t true that they were “ruining” the city like they thought. My grandmother is gone, now, she’d been two months passed by the time you wrote this blog. My grandfather died in 1991. I wish I could have them read this piece. Or my uncles, that I don’t speak to. They have all succumbed to this hateful fear. And yet, they all call themselves Christians.

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