Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A larger world than the farm

Pelican Rapids on a summer day
I’m a shepherd. My blog Sheep Notes allows me to write about our sheep, our land, and occasionally my grandchildren. It gives me a place to talk about the things I love. But shepherd is only one part of me, actually, a small part. Since our kids have grown up and moved away from home, our community has become one of those things I love, partly because I have invested myself in it, and partly because of the amazing people who live here and the ways they have chosen to live their lives. I think it is time for my blog to expand to encompass all the things that I love. I’m not sure what my title, Sheep Notes means anymore. Perhaps I will comment on activities that we seem to rush into without much thought, like my sheep rushing for corn when the gate is opened. Perhaps Sheep Notes will be more of a report, notes on the world around us as seen through the eyes of a shepherd. Whatever direction it goes, Sheep Notes will continue to be a blog about the things that that are important to me. First, let me introduce you to Pelican Rapids.

Pelican Rapids is a small town in west central Minnesota. Over the last thirty years, our community transformed from a collection of farmers and small businessmen with Scandinavian or German ancestry (population about 1800) to a village including refugees and immigrants from Somalia, Bosnia, Vietnam, Ukraine, Iraq, and Mexico (population about 2500.)  Fifty years ago in Pelican Rapids it was sort of iffy if a Norwegian married a Swede. Today in Pelican, people speak at least 8 different languages. Mixed race marriages are not unusual. In fact some of the Bosnians living in town are here because there is nowhere for them to live in their home country.  Two Catholic brothers married a Muslim woman and an Orthodox woman before the war in Bosnia. They are not welcome in Bosnia or Serbia today. They are welcome in Pelican Rapids. 

The major similarity between these disparate peoples at first seems to be employment at the turkey plant in town. However, people are just people all over the world, no matter what color their skin, what religion they follow or what political party they support. Residents in Pelican Rapids have struggled to create a new definition of community that includes bridging between people with very different life experiences, building useful conversations between people who don’t even speak the same language, and imagining a set of goals which address and then solve the barriers to community, that replace the word “stranger” with the word “friend.”

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