Southwest stars

All my life, every time someone whips open their wallet to show me their pictures of kids, dogs or other loved ones, I inwardly groan … unless I know the people in the pictures.

This “Thank You” issue of Southwest Journal is a lot like a box of family/neighborhood photos that you can only really love if you live or work around here. There are so many people and things to be thankful for in Southwest, and I have always loved this annual issue because it celebrates, in such a personal and unique way, our neck of the woods.

But I’m also very sensitive about focusing on things that separate us from others; I fear that it shifts us away from remembering the most important family we belong to: the Human Family.

As I contemplated writing this, I realized that we humans need a smaller place “where we belong,” while embracing how connected we are to the bigger “family.”

I know that for every librarian, mail carrier, soup-making neighbor, bus driver, and pharmacist that we are thankful for here in Southwest, there’s a batch to match in Northeast, Roseville, Bemidji, Two Harbors, and places beyond like Havana, Lourdes, Gaza, Singapore, Isla Mujeres, Capetown, Saigon, and Zagreb.

But closer to home, I have a couple that I’d like to add to this year’s list:

First, hats off to the fabulous staff at the Lake Street Post Office at 31st & 1st Avenue. If you ever need a mini-United Nations experience, go buy your stamps there. There’s always a line (so bring a magazine and plan your schedule accordingly), but it is an absolute wonder to watch this staff handle inquiries and packages from people from all over the world. I’ve been going to that post office for almost 20 years and there are never patrons from fewer than five different countries standing in line with me. They often have complicated, and clearly important, things to mail and, very often, their English is not the best. But that staff, oh, they are patient, multilingual, funny, professional, efficient and kind. It makes me thankful and proud to have them here in my neighborhood.

Next, I’d like to shine a light on the always helpful and cheerful people who work at the Walgreens at Lake and Pleasant. The pharmacy staff are kindred spirits to the post office workers in that they have so many immigrant customers to take care of, they have to figure out people’s insurance stuff as well, and on top of that, it’s a pharmacy, so their customers are often sick! They are angels. The regular store staff are also gems and handle all types of people with good grace. One of the store staffers once confided to me that they have a higher-than-average shoplifting rate and so I’m thankful that Walgreens keeps that location open.

Lastly, I’d like to thank the Walldogs on Nicollet project ( Walldogs are a nickname of sign painters who used to travel from town to town painting murals. Sponsored by the Lyndale and Kingfield neighborhood associations, artists and volunteers started painting murals along Nicollet Avenue this summer and will continue through next summer. Murals may not seem like a big deal, but they deter graffiti and enhance the beauty of blocks that often need some cheer.

One really hot afternoon this falll, I was leaving my house on errands and I was feeling very sad about Mark Loesch’s murder and discouraged about the ’hood. As I drove by the corner of 34rd and Nicollet, there was a lone Walldog artist putting some finishing touches on one of the murals. It’s a beautiful mural of a vegetable market. and it graces a wall that has been continually plagued with graffiti. It was a sight that simply lifted my heart out of its pain. I pulled over, thanked the gal who was painting it and told her what it meant to me. It reminded me that life is a mixture of people and things, good and bad, and they are all right here in our corner of the world.

So, as you go through these pages of thank yous, think of it as our big wallet full of photos that might not mean much to someone in Duluth or Moscow, but I’ll bet they would agree that our neighborhoods and our neighbors are something to be appreciated regardless of where you call home.

Terre Thomas lives in the Lyndale neighborhood and owns Fairy Godmother, a gift shop in the Kingfield neighborhood.