MINOT--“I see you here a lot,” said the man who held the door for me as we simultaneously left the library.
“Yeah,” I replied, while shoving my now-empty coffee mug into my bag. “I come here to work when my husband is home with our kids. I’m close enough that I can be home in about five minutes, if I hurry—but far enough away I’m not distracted by ongoing requests for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.”
We both laughed. It was the kind of laugh reserved for lighthearted conversations with strangers; airy and polite, but not fully committed. This man and I are both regulars at the library. This summer, I’ve spent many days perched at a table in the mezzanine, using it as an office of sorts. Looking down through the plexiglass partition, I’ve gotten to know the other “regulars,” by routine, if not by name.
There is the mom and two sons who come to do the monthly scavenger hunt; the man who saunters in to read the Wall Street Journal; the teenage boys who fancy themselves chess aficionados, but usually end up watching YouTube instead of finishing a match; and the man who always chats with the reference librarian—the man who held the door for me on this hot afternoon.
I recognize all these regulars, and more. I know they recognize me, too. Over the summer we’ve all become passive pieces in the ambiance of one another’s lives; familiar faces in a weekly rhythm. Rarely does my path cross another library regular closely enough to exchange more than a polite wave or smile, but on this day it did.
When our laughter tapered off, I turned to remove my bike from the rack. The man said, “Are you from Minot?”
“No, I’m not from around here. But we really love it here. You?” I replied. His voice held a hint of an accent, so I wasn’t surprised when he told me that he, too, was a transplant.
“I’ve been here ten years,” he said. “Minot it okay. It’s quiet, the people are nice. There’s just not much to do.”
Obviously, he didn’t realize he was talking to Minot’s biggest advocate and ally. When I told him I thought Minot has plenty to do—and the activities are more accessible and affordable than anywhere else we’ve lived—he said, “Just give it time. You’ll see.”
When he said those words, I knew this would be a conversation I’d remember. A conversation I’d write about.
It dawned on me then, that a person will see what they want to see. Will they see a place with “nothing to do” because it lacks attractions of national acclaim? Or will they see a place bursting with quiet possibility?
In turn, what you see will inform what you encourage others to see. Will you spur others on to see something good, and full of potential? Something ready to foster contentment, if given the chance? Or will you inspire others to see a void breeding ground for discontentment.
I’ll never “see” this as a place with nothing to do, and nothing to offer. That’s not the version of North Dakota I want to see, it’s not the kind of place I want you to see. That’s not the kind of place I want to live. I’ll choose to see something different.
I’ll choose to see a place with plenty to do. I’ll choose to see a community that works doggedly hard to be welcoming and enjoyable for individuals who have had little choice in moving here. I’ll choose to see the good ideas, the kindness, the quirks, and the opportunities to soak up experiences in small settings. I’ll do my best to help others see those things, too.
Don’t set your sights on what isn’t here, but all of the good things that are.
With a wide grin, I told my new friend at the library that I’d lived in Minot nearly as long as he had, and I’ve never been left bored. I asked if he’d been to summer theater? Arts in the City? Eaten outside on a patio? Traveled to Stanley for Whirl-a-Whip? Walked Denbigh Forest? Gone to the pool? Stayed up late enough for an outdoor movie?
No. He hadn’t even heard of most of the things I mentioned.
Friends, we are on the brink of a new season. As we approach the slippery slope to winter, let’s be mindful of what we see. Let’s see several more weeks of summer, splash pads, pool nights, and park walks. Let’s see autumn goodness on the horizon, ready to meet us with pumpkins, and corn mazes, and the return of the Hostfest.
You’re in a good place. You’re in a good community. You’ll see.