There's an iconic painting at the Minnesota Marine Art Museumin Winona called "Washington Crossing the Delaware." When my mom and I visited the museum last year, a security guard sat down with us and pointed out a variety of important details. If it hadn't been for him, I would've missed most of what makes Emanuel Leutze's 1851 painting so noteworthy. Instead of sitting down to study it thoughtfully, I would've briefly glanced and kept on walking, believing that since it was mildly familiar-looking, I already knew everything I needed to know.
It's easy to miss the more nuanced details of paintings and people and places that seem familiar. Thankfully, there are helpers who empower us to notice what we might otherwise miss.
My experience of Rochester has been similarly awareness-building as of late.
I moved to the area nearly a decade ago with a highly Mayo-centric perspective. Growing up in northeastern Iowa, the only thing I knew about Rochester was that really sick people traveled here hoping to be healed.
New dimensions of our region came to the surface when I served as a pastor in Stewartville, one of Rochester's neighboring communities. With each passing year, there were helpers willing to highlight the qualities that make this part of the country special. Farmers, business owners, quilters, nurses, community bankers, naturalists and museum curators: They each had unique insights to share.
Yet over these years, there have still been so very many details of southeastern Minnesota that I have missed. It's easy to fall back into my default, clinic-centered perspective. I'm grateful for helpers who point out the otherwise unseen details, layers, and connections.
At a recent tour of a downtown collaborative working space called Collider, I sat down with the community manager, Jamie Sundsbak. The room was buzzing with creative energy and entrepreneurs of all kinds. Sundsbak described his desire to nurture ideas and a Rochester community willing to invest in and support people who think outside the box. Prior to our conversation, I hadn't paused to consider how important it is to support spaces like Collider.
A few days later, I visited Dwell Local, a shop in the Cooke Park neighborhood owned by Paul Bennett. The store features the art, jewelry and furniture of more than 50 local artists and makers. Especially great was the opportunity to view the beautiful jewelry on display created by Amy, one of the techs from the Charlton Lab who regularly draws my blood. Prior to talking with Bennett, I hadn't thought much about what it would look like to make a stronger and more intentional commitment to buying local goods when possible.
Southeastern Minnesota is anything but one-dimensional. For this, we can all give abundant thanks. There are many elements and influences of Rochester and the surrounding region. Mayo Clinic is one profoundly important component of what makes this area great. Founded in 1889, the clinic's commitment to patient-centered service is a guiding force for all of us. But it isn't the only guiding force.
The mural depicting this region is large and complex and ever-changing. We can't just rush right by assuming we've already seen it all and know it all. We've got to keep looking at the painting; we've got to keep participating in its creation.
May we be helpers for one another, co-journeyers willing to sit down together to highlight the beautiful details we might otherwise miss.