Earlier this month, it was my great pleasure to attend the City of Minneapolis Citizen Awards. Each year, the city recognizes 10 or so people who go above and beyond the call to give their time to make the community better.
The event, once somewhat glamorous, has become more humble -- cookies and punch at the Minneapolis Convention Center. But I don't think the award-winners cared; these are people who give their time for far less material reward.
The winners included Dave Parker of Windom, who on his own, during walks with his dog Duke, brings along graffiti-removal equipment and regularly cleans up his neighborhood. His car trunk contains paint whose colors match the public structures Dave retouches. Until recently, he paid for everything out of pocket.
Or Ann Munt, who works for a northeast Minneapolis "settlement house." As a mentor with the Somali Women in Minneapolis program, she helps today's immigrants, and others, navigate the complex world of being new here and poor. Ann's was the Legacy Award -- a lifetime achievement award, meaning she's done this for many, for decades. One of the ceremony's best moments was a testament to her tenacity to get people help.
In retelling this tale, you need to allow a bit of coarseness. One night, Ann was trying to help some person on the street with a problem. On her way, she walked by a number of gang members. "Do you see that old bitch?" one shouted at the gray-haired Ann.
"Where is she? Let me see her!" Ann deadpanned.
Although few outside their families witnessed the group tribute, there's no doubt that a nice wooden frame and a piece of glass holding a pretty piece of parchment and a City of Minneapolis pin is surprisingly meaningful for those who have served. Aside from a nice introduction, that's what all winners received.
Now, word from City Hall is that the 2002 Minneapolis Awards might be the last -- a victim of city budget cuts.
There's no doubt that the city's budget is being squeezed, by pricey decisions and looming state budget cuts. And no doubt, volunteers will keep volunteering whether they receive an award or not.
But especially in times like this -- when we must rely even more on a generosity of spirit and the city's well-earned reputation for working things out together -- it's a rotten time to eliminate the city's top volunteer honor. Councilmembers, there are many other ways to trim the civic fat.
One of the wonderful things about being a newspaper editor is that you get to try many neat ideas that come into your head.
The problem is they can also, quite publicly, go splat.
Take my well-intentioned idea to create a "Thank You" section in our final paper of the year, on Dec. 19. In my column two weeks ago, I asked readers to nominate a worthy Minneapolitan -- someone as heralded as an elected official, or as everyday as a cool teacher, a thoughtful mail carrier, a concerned neighbor, or an above-the-call city worker -- for a 250-word-or-less recognition in the Journal.
I envisioned a poignant quilt of personal anecdote sewn from the material of Southwest.
What I got was nothing. Nada. Zip. No nominations.
But I'll not stop at being humbled; I'm willing to beg. Please, oh please, send me your nominations! You know there's some wonderful person out there who deserves recognition! You know you'll feel lousy if you don't use this chance (I'm not above guilt as a weapon, either).
Seriously, you have weeks yet (until Dec. 5) to get your nominations in -- by email to [email protected], by fax to 825-0929 (title these "Thank You," to my attention), or by mail to 3225 Lyndale Ave. S., Mpls, 55408.
My hope is that we can produce an issue so heart-warming you can roast chestnuts with it. Only you can keep it from being my personal lump of coal.