I had a Memorial Day much like many people around our region had Memorial Day. For me it was strikingly stirring.
Our veterans from town and the surrounding countryside all turned out in their crisp uniforms- including our WWII vets. The entire high school band was there in force- even the seniors who had graduation ceremonies (and parties) the day before and who probably had 0 to 3 hours of sleep before lining up at 8:30 am on Monday morning.
As the solemn, crisp procession went down mainstreet-my two little boys (still in kindergarten) asked if they could join the parade. Without a single concern I patted them on the backs and sent them out into the street. They were surrounded on all sides by caring community members who know them by name. At the end of mainstreet the flag was raised to half mast and the commander yelled "Fallout for Legion members taking the bus." Support for the elderly among their ranks.
One elderly woman stood in front of her house- the paint was peeling- her flag was flying- and tears were in her eyes. I don't know her personally or her story- but maybe she was recalling a husband, son, brother, uncle who had known war.
Inside the gym we all sing together and then the names of every fallen soldier from this area over the past 130 years is read off. Dozens of Mobergs, seven Hagens from WWII alone. We had a speaker- himself just a second generation immigrant from Sweden.
Following the ceremonies the crowd went to the cemetery and then to the Clinton Memorial Building for a potluck dinner. We went to the potluck last year- but not this year. Jens said "Veterans eat only plants." "No dear, that would be vegetarians, not Veterans."
From the time my kids were babies we played with blocks. We always start with a "firm foundation." The phrase "firm foundation" was among all of their first baby phrases. Because the first thing you need in building a block tower (or a life) is a firm foundation--otherwise it's all for naught.
Robert Putman, a researcher out of Harvard, looked at "social capital" in the United States. Social capital is defined, by some, as the "goodwill, fellowship, mutual sympathy and camaraderie among group of individuals and families who make up a social unity." Putman used many measures to determine which states had the highest social capital- the result is this blurry map below. Maybe by coincidence or fate- we landed in the geographic center of social capital on the North American continent.
When I was traveling in Guatamala- hitchhiking and camping- I stayed at a remote farm in the hills. It was run by 2 young Americans and I enjoyed a clean bed and great food. I remember talking with the other gringos about my longing for Minnesota- what an oasis of fairness, goodness, kindness, etc. etc. etc... My new "friends" looked at me like I was nuts- bragging- cracking up from too many long months on the hard, dusty mochilaro trail. I quit talking and retreated to my dreams of home. And you know what? I'm not disappointed with this place- almost 20 years later it still lives up to my visions.
And my friends in Guatamala? Sadly, the husband (a farm boy from Iowa) had his head cut off by the army and put on a post in his yard just a few weeks after I left their farm in the back of a local's pickup truck. I was already heading north. Heading home.
And here I am. This is a good place to build upon a firm foundation. I don't even have to lay the stone myself. Just stand among the capstones that have been set before me. And hold together that firm foundation for a generation- hopefully so my children can then take up the yoke - where the women are strong, the men are good lookin' and the children are above average.