"This is strange. We're not used to this. Why can we only park here for 30 minutes?" The man and woman were squinting into the sun as they gazed at the downtown parking meter.

It was one of those situations where the people were sort of talking to the air and sort of talking to anyone within earshot. I could've easily walked by without acknowledging the pair. I was tempted to avoid eye contact because it was my lunch break, and as per usual, I was trying to cram three hours of activities into a one-hour block of time.

"I'm sure they'll figure it out," I told myself.

But then my conscience started screaming — reminding me of my own hospital experiences in this town. First with my grandma in 2002, then alongside many parishioners of the congregation I served and then my own ongoing platelet adventures.

"Emily, don't you remember how confusing and tiring it is to be stuck in a bubble of medical world? Just slow the heck down and help these people."

Helping hand

So my heart tugged, and I listened. I paused and joined them in staring at the parking meter. "Yeah, these are 30-minute spots. There's a ramp up the street where you can park for the day."

"We're from South Dakota. We can park for free anywhere we go back home. We were just trying to find some kind of outdoor concert that we heard about. Do you know where it is?"

We exchanged handshakes, first names and brief biographies. Mona and Ron. They were visiting for a week for a liver transplant consultation for Ron. They'd have tests all week long and were looking for things to do in between medical appointments.

They had the appearance of two individuals facing the challenge of a lifetime. Uprooted for a week from family and friends. It was only the beginning of their Mayo journey — one that would include return visits and last many months. They were a little bit lost and highly exhausted. It was as if the same tornado that started the development of our city in 1883 now had dropped them back in the center of it all.

Rochester is a town that we as locals know and love. We find it charming and welcoming. We forget that it's also daunting. We forget that no matter how wonderful, it's also a place where really sick people come in search of healing. For someone new to the area, it's a town of tall buildings, strange parking meters and a busy downtown blur of suits and ties and Mayo badges.

During the past three years, my feelings about Destination Medical Center have ranged from intrigued to confused to excited. I regularly explore the DMC website, dmc.mn, and newspaper articles to stay connected to pertinent happenings, but I don't always understand. I find myself thinking often of Will and Charlie Mayo and the Sisters of Saint Francis. I ponder how DMC will be a reflection of their legacy.

Big picture, small pieces

Meeting Mona and Ron reminded me why DMC is important. From what I can gather, at its core, DMC is rooted in developing a strategic plan, creating jobs, generating revenue and becoming a destination for health and wellness. Underneath all those great aspirations are people such as Ron and Mona — people preparing to climb a formidable hill while pushing a great big boulder. As a community, we provide the backdrop for that climb.

A vibrant community with a financially sustainable future can improve patient experiences and outcomes. That's key for me. That's why it all matters. We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the patients at the center of this medical economy.

Long-term plans are amazing and important. We need future-seekers who lean way forward, well-past what most of us can imagine. They are leaders who can dream dreams and hire consultants to map out the way. So whether it's the 2-million-square-foot Discovery Center or 40,000 potential new jobs or a gorgeously remodeled Civic Center, I am grateful for people who guide us into the future with creativity and compassion. These all are planks on the bridge getting us to where we want to be.

That being said, my priority always will be that DMC is rooted in a commitment to our collective responsibility to be a WCEPE (Welcoming Community for the Emotionally and Physically Exhausted).

When it comes to supporting the health of our community, everyone is invited. You don't have to be on the DMC board to participate. You don't need to go to tech meet-ups or happy hours at hipster breweries. You don't need to own a bio business firm or have $10 million to invest. You don't need a medical degree. You don't need a fancy title or a suit. You don't need to be a millennial. Those aren't the ingredients that matter most in this recipe.

What matters most is staying rooted in the commitments that built this region in the first place: hospitality, healing and mutual respect. So slow down and be a helper. Have real conversations with real people. Put down your phone. Stop scheduling so many meetings. Listen. Invite the voices at the margins of this town into the conversation. Value the past while building the future. Follow the Spirit's nudges. And please remember this: Our individual daily interactions matter just as much as any futuristic big city dream boards'. Always.