What Are Hometown Values?

Sometimes the task of rebuilding — of accepting what has been broken and making things anew — is so daunting that it can almost feel easier to believe it can’t be done. But it can.

— Alana Newhouse, “ Everything Is Broken”


Mikki Morrissette, publisher and editor, Minnesota Women’s Press

This month’s theme was inspired by a workshop I took more than a decade ago, when we were asked to consider one of our core values and discuss where it might have started. It fascinated me at the time: How often do we get to think and talk about the roots of what really matters to us? Where does our ethical code come from? Are we living out those values in our chosen communities?

The people we talked with for this issue are strong examples of neighbors living out values in communion with others.

A three-story package inspired by a visit to Brainerd explores how neighbors, law enforcement officers and social workers, and domestic violence advocates are trying to create a safer environment. It includes frank discussions about the gaps that remain, what bystanders can do, and why domestic violence is an issue neighbors are involved with.

Our “Collective Health” online series will spend much of the next year examining how neighbors are attempting to solve public safety and health issues. Relying primarily on law enforcement and underfunded advocates to support vulnerable individuals is not enough.

A prime example of this “village vision” in action is the story this month from Jessica Mager, who prompted a “yes in my backyard” movement. She understood the value of a nearby youth mental health facility and did not let neighbors derail that vision.

We offer a glimpse of two candidates whose values are lifting them into political campaigns. Jen Schultz and Rachel Bohman are trying to unseat anti-choice incumbents in the U.S. Congress who represent northern and southern Minnesota.

Thanks in part to underwriting from the First Unitarian Foundation, I have begun to travel to cities around the state — including Ortonville, Worthington, and Chisholm — to learn directly from people about the challenges, values, and vision in their communities.

We now have a discussion guide about gender-based violence to use as the basis for upcoming conversations. What do neighbors understand about how to help families that are isolated in traumatic dynamics, who often do not call police? We will have conversations in Burnsville and Marshall, which are among the towns rocked by recent homicides stemming from violent and coercive behavior that went unchecked.

To my mind, one of the challenges we face is that many people tend to think of themselves as individual nouns — when, really, everyone is part of an interconnected process that adjusts and builds upon itself, day after day.

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Collective Health: Brainerd