My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit

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!

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 )

2 thoughts on “My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit

  1. I think that Bill has said the truth I to do enjoy living in the great town of Worthington. I’ve called this area home all my life and have always enjoyed it.

  2. Dear Bill, Though I don’t live in Worthington any more, I know my Mom & Dad (Ray and Thelma Mork) would be cheering your article and attitude! After 9/11, I was staying with my folks and attended the Ecumenical service in Worthington. When the Elementary School Choir came up to sing and I saw their sweet faces (looking like the faces of all the world) I remember thinking, “This is such a hopeful place!” Thank God for Worthington and for good folks like you!

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