Med City. Home sweet home. Destination Medical Center. Southeastern Minnesota.

There are many ways we refer to this geographic region. I'd like to suggest two more. Refuge of stories. And harbor of uncertainty.

Every day, this community welcomes a multitude of visitors who come via plane, bus or car in search of hope. Hope in the form of health.

In addition to suitcases and appointment itineraries, these people and their families come with stories and uncertainty. They enter this region knowing that, within our city limits, they likely will hear some of the best or worst news of their lives.

How are we, as residents of the Rochester-area, acknowledging and honoring this reality? We are all invited to participate in the continued development of this outstanding community.

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To be a medical destination is to provide more than the best physicians and diagnostic procedures. A true medical destination is a place that acknowledges life's uncertainties, and we don't need to avoid that. We need to lean into it.

Whether we realize it or not, this community is a harbor. A place where people come, weary and worn, seeking to dock their boats and rest awhile. We are a refuge of stories, where folks long to be valued and acknowledged for their humanity — separate and apart from their lab results or CAT scans. And it isn't just the medical professionals who are the harbormasters of this port. It's all of us.

Whatever shapes and forms Destination Medical Center takes in the years ahead, it is certainly much more than an economic stimulus plan. It is more than increased jobs and improved infrastructure. DMC, at its core, is not about what we will get. It is about what we will give. Here and now, we have the opportunity to reconnect with the compassionate vision set forth 150 years ago by the Sisters of St. Francis and the Mayos.

Rochester is a harbor and a refuge, a safe place that honors the worth and value of all people, regardless of medical diagnosis, professional title, or immigration status.

A few weeks back, I encountered a man at Chester's. He had a thick Southern accent and ordered rotisserie chicken. He drank a glass of riesling. After he finished, the waitress brought over a giant piece of chocolate cake.

My friend and I were sitting next to him in the bar area of the restaurant. We introduced ourselves, but he never said his name. Instead, he shared a few small details of his story.

He lived in Arkansas and didn't care for the cold of Minnesota. He needed to be in Rochester for a week for tests and appointments. He was here alone and was looking forward to getting back home.

The conversation held plenty of smiles. But his were the tired kind. This man from Arkansas was a bundle of uncertainty, seeking some kind of calm in the storm of his life.

When the cake arrived, he offered to share it. I politely declined. That's the one moment I've pondered nearly every day since. I wish I could do that over. I would eat the cake with him.

Sometimes life is so uncertain, the best we can do is order our favorite dessert and share it with someone willing to sit with us in the unknowns.

In this town, we don't get the opportunity to hear every story that walks in our midst. So we must tread lightly. Every human interaction provides an opportunity to convey to people: You are remarkable and you are not alone.

This is our shared mission as a community: to value people — with all their stories and uncertainties. To affirm the innate, God-given worth of everyone we meet.

So, when we see someone struggling to choose a floor on the elevator — or walking slowly through the skyways — or eating a giant piece of chocolate cake knowing it might be their last, let us remember that as residents of southeastern Minnesota, we walk on holy ground. May we move with grace.

The Lady Pastor is a weekly column by Emily Carson. She is a Lutheran pastor serving at the Southeastern Minnesota Synod Office in Rochester. Visit her blog at