Our block in a typical south Minneapolis neighborhood circulates a “TGIF, Friday, 5 pm” sign — at least in the summer. Whoever wants to host the informal gathering gets the sign from the house where we gathered during the previous week and sticks it out front in their yard, generally on or about Wednesdays. No obligation! It’s pot-luck, very kid-friendly and easy-going. Yes, we have a block captain who keeps an eye on crime-alerts ( e.g., bicycle taken when garage door left open), email list-serve and printed directory that even includes the names of our pets. But, it’s our face-to-face informal gatherings in each other’s yards that really make us neighbors. These summer socials go a long way to sustain us through the five months of the year when we are likely to have snow on the ground.
Minneapolitans need to be a hearty stock! So, our summer TGIFs sometimes must morph into spontaneous conversations over a snow shovel or commiseration when scraping ice from the windshield. However, we are rarely deterred and never defeated — our block proudly hosts a mid-November party! We close off the street and, donned with coats and gloves, kids get one last chance before the snow flies to run and ride bikes with wild abandon. Most years, neighbors desperate for social connection will anticipate TGIF season with indoor gatherings as early as March, certainly by April.
This weekend the neighbors with whom we share an alley hosted the annual mid-February soup cook-off. Outside, of course. Organizers again got requisite permits to close off the street and Mother Nature cooperated with a refreshingly high temperature of 15 above zero. No one needed to mentioned that the gray clouds mercifully insulated earth’s residual heat and a clear blue sky would have come with significantly lower temps — Minnesotans live this sort of reality! Crockpots keep the food warm if you eat fast and the kids play as if this is the way the whole world lives.
Despite my reputation and penchant for making soup, we chose to go instead to a benefit for our church’s Guatemala outreach. As we drove out of the alley en route to the afternoon fund-raiser inside a popular pub, we noted the canvas ice fishing huts clustered midway down the blocked-off street. Steam from neighbors’ breath was as visible as from the pots of soup or smoke from patio grills repurposed for hand warming. We felt torn — these are our neighbors. Yet, we were not deterred from heading off to join other friends and hear music from some good bands. You might say, we Minnesotans are accustomed to too much of a good thing!
At church this weekend we heard Jesus say: “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.” Always good to be reminded of what we easily take for granted. Salt and light — two things Minnesotans are especially grateful for at this time of year. Right here in south Minneapolis, we are blessed to be part of a community where neighbors really do melt a sometimes icy world and brighten our cloudy days. We are truly blessed.