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Bridging differences
Norma Smith Olson, left, and Kathy Magnuson
by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson

We chose the theme of "bridges and walls" for this November magazine. Then presidential candidate Donald Trump pledged to build a wall along the southern border of the United States to keep people out, to exclude them.

As we write these words in mid-October, to meet a press deadline, we don't know the outcome of the November election, but we are hopeful that the next four years and beyond will be filled with bridge building rather than wall building, and that our country will become more inclusive and connected.

Aside from our First Nation peoples who have lived in this land for thousands of years, we are a nation of immigrants. Most of our country's citizens trace roots to somewhere else, outside our borders. Many came not by their own choice as slaves; others chose to come to this place to start a new life.

In early October, Norma's mother died. Margaret was the youngest of 15 children in her Norwegian immigrant family that settled on Minnesota's Iron Range in the late 1800s. As nieces and nephews of the Midthun family gathered to celebrate Margaret's life, Norma was aware that politically she may be in a minority in this family - those who plan to vote for the first woman president. Margaret would have voted for Hillary, too. But, for this day, any differences of politics were set aside. A bridge of strong family ties prevailed. The extended family shared stories, sang familiar hymns and gave each other big hugs. Any walls that had been built over the years were dismantled for this gathering day, as they were reminded of the importance of connections.

While Norma's Norwegian heritage is important, her family has become more diverse over the years. Her grandmother warmly accepted a German-American son-in-law, when Margaret married Lynn Smith in 1946. Finnish, Swedish, Bohemian, Hispanic, Philippine, Korean, Indian, African-American and other heritages are part of the Midthun family mix today.

Can our country do a better job of breaking down walls and building bridges across races, cultures or political differences? Yes.

At the Women's Press we believe that sharing stories makes a difference. By hearing each other's stories, walls or blocks in our thinking can be lowered. Through story we can build bridges to understanding, new perspectives and relationships.

YWCA Mpls InStory Banner 11-2017

In this November issue we share stories of women related to walls and bridges. Luz Maria Frias builds bridges between cultures and communities by facilitating conversations between activists, including representatives of Black Lives Matter, the police and government officials. Artists Lori Greene and Greta McLain are leaders in a community mural project in the Midway area of St. Paul that enhances the outdoor walls of businesses. You will read about two women seeking walls - a place to live that does not involve sleeping under bridges.

We invite you to dig into this issue of bridges and walls, to reflect on it, to have conversations with others about the bridges and walls in your lives - and to send us your perspectives and feedback.

As Trista Harris says in her essay, "Let's all pitch in and contribute to the work that is necessary for Minnesota to be a wonderful place for everyone to live - from the children of Lake Wobegon to the children who live on Lake Street. Together we can make Minnesota a place that all of us are proud to call home."

Coming up:

December's theme is our annual Changemakers issue. What would you like to see changed for women or girls? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: November 10, 2016
December Advertising Sections:
• Holiday Guide
• Spirituality Guide
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: November 10, 2016

January's theme Is "wordwomen" and we're asking: What is a book that changed your life and why? Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to editor@womenspress.com
Deadline: December 10, 2016
January Advertising Sections:
• Camps and Activities Guide
• Education and Lifelong Learning Guide
• Girlfriends' Guide to the New Year
• GoSeeDo/Calendar Guide
Deadline: Dec. 10, 2016

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