Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

“It’s in your hands” September 25, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:01 AM
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I photographed this sign on the door of a business in Crosby, where shops I visited followed through on masking requirements.


Lake COUNTRY Cares.

That sub message underscores the main point to mask up while patronizing businesses in central Minnesota’s lakes region. So those businesses can stay open.

I appreciate the message and the buffalo plaid Paul Bunyan themed art iconic to this region. The serious, yet visually humorous, sign, duplicated and posted on many shops, reminds us all that we can help stop the spread of COVID-19 by masking up.

If only every business posting that sign or a similar “masks are required” sign would follow the rules. Words are meaningless when actions do not match. And I found that to be the case in some (more than I expected) shops in Nisswa and Crosslake during a recent stay at a family lake cabin in the area.

My frustration level grew to the point that, if I walked into a shop where the owner/employee was not masked or even one customer was not masked (wearing a mask below one’s nose or around one’s neck or wearing only a partial plastic shield is not “wearing a mask”), I walked out. Right out the door. This failure to mask up shows no care. No care for people. No care for keeping businesses open.


I love this message and the welcoming and caring shopkeeper with whom I spoke.


In all fairness, I walked into plenty of shops where the owners clearly care. Masks were available to customers. Hand sanitizer or wipes were front and center with notices to use upon entering the business. I especially appreciated the cleaning station and creative signage in a Crosslake framing and gift shop that stated: IT’S IN YOUR HANDS.

Yes, it is. It’s up to each of us to do our part to keep each other safe. This is about health and science and respect and compassion for one another. Not about politics and whatever other arguments can be tossed into the mix.

This failure to follow our state mask mandate is not unique to the central Minnesota lakes region, although, from my observations during my visit, it seems more problematic there. Here in the Faribault area I still see occasional half-maskers and no-maskers. Without divulging specifics, I will also add that not all employers are providing a safe work environment for employees or customers by their failure to comply with Minnesota’s mask mandate and other health recommendations.

So, yeah, I’m frustrated. Even angry at times. I recognize that even the best preventative measures can still fail, but we have to try.


A sign posted in Mission Park south of Crosslake from an event canceled earlier this year due to COVID-19.


Just like many of you, I’m weary of COVID-19 and the restrictions it has placed on my life. But I keep reminding myself that I, we, can get through this, if only we do our part. Mask up. Social distance. Keep our hands clean. Avoid crowds and sizeable gatherings. Limit our circle. Make smart/good decisions that protect ourselves and others. Stay home when we’re sick. Get tested for COVID-19 if symptoms suggest that. It’s not that difficult. Really.


© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


18 Responses to ““It’s in your hands””

  1. lisasimons12 Says:

    Agree, agree, agree!

    • I thought it was interesting to hear the Fairmont schools superintendent speak to the issue of adults in the community not masking up, attending large gatherings (funerals, weddings, etc) and thus spreading the virus and how that negatively affects the school system. I applaud his willingness to publicly state this. I hope it makes a difference to the folks not only in Martin County but in other rural areas, especially. This virus is now becoming much more widespread in Minnesota’s more rural counties, indicating this is not just a metro or bigger cities concern (which I’ve long-known). This virus knows no geographical boundaries. I recognize that you fully understand that.

  2. jhc1218 Says:

    It’s not that hard! I cringe when people start with the “it’s infringing on my freedoms.” The faster people comply, the faster we can actually open schools, businesses, etc…Stevens County (where I grew up) was recently in the news for having strong evidence of unidentified cases. There are also reports of people not getting tested to keep numbers low enough so school and other activities are not disrupted. https://www.startribune.com/two-statistical-covid-milestones-suggest-trouble-ahead-for-minnesota/572277702/
    It’s so frustrating.

    • I share your frustrations. Your home county of Stevens and mine of Redwood are similar in population and probably in attitude toward COVID. Not a lot of cases until recently. But Redwood County was named a recent hot spot for COVID. The same goes for Waseca County, right next to my county of Rice. Cases there are through the roof at 85 per 10,000. I sincerely hope folks in rural counties recognize the seriousness of this virus. (I know some do, so I don’t want to blanket state everyone is oblivious.) I have lots of family living in rural areas and I’m deeply concerned.

  3. Norma Says:

    I understand your frustration, Audrey. As a result, I just stay away from inside areas as much as possible. I was watching a newscast this A.M. showing a mother, being forcefully carried from her child’s sport game, because she refused to wear a mask. I just wonder if her behavior has any effect on her child.

  4. Liz W Says:

    You said it so well. It is so sad how this has become not an issue of all of us doing what we can to protect others and get a grip on the virus, but of politicizing and playing to fear. This never happened during the flu epidemic or the polio epidemic. What has our country become?
    I am in stores only as long as it takes to do my grocery shopping, and must admit, I am grateful that all customers and employees are masked when I am there. Must admit I have also turned around in the few places where employees were not wearing masks, and told them why I was leaving.
    We can only live in hope.

    • Good for you to walk out of those places with unmasked employees. This morning my husband had to stop at a local implement dealership to pick up parts for work. He wore his mask inside. Upon his return, I asked if anyone was wearing masks. NO. I was not surprised. Sigh.

  5. Ruth Says:

    Cringing a lot here in the city. What a terrific post.

    • Thank you, Ruth. Yesterday Randy and I stopped at a local business. Four customers in the store, including us. Two of us were masked (Randy and me). The other two were not. I am beyond frustrated. I just do not get it. What is so difficult about wearing a mask?

      I wish businesses would enforce the state mask mandate. Perhaps the state health department needs to focus on more businesses (other than bars and restaurants) and start doing drop-in visits and fining businesses. It seems like only fining or shutting businesses down works. Or maybe people can just start caring about others and…yeah…

  6. Yep yep and more yeps! Tired of it all, but I’m staying safe and keeping others safe by doing all the above.

  7. We are of one mind on this that is for sure. I suspect there are many like us but it is getting more difficult to tolerate those who say there is no problem. If we all just followed the simple guide lines we could put this in the rear view mirror a lot faster. But that is not the case for some folks and so the rest of us pay the price. A lot of times the ones most vulnerable are paying with their lives. Thanks for your great post.

    • I know you agree and are as frustrated as I am by the failure to mask up and follow other safety guidelines. My tolerance for this uncaring behavior is dropping. When I walked into a shop in Faribault on Saturday and saw an unmasked man, I stopped dead in my tracks, glared at him and turned a sharp left into another aisle. If he didn’t get the message… I worry most about Randy, who is exposed daily to unmasked customers (those numbers are growing) and to co-workers who are not masking properly and have zero regard for themselves, customers or co-workers like Randy. I just want to scream. And I have!

  8. Susan Ready Says:

    I totally understand and can appreciate your frustrations. It seems so simple wear a mask but so many feel their rights are being violated when told they have to.do something. Sometimes it is so weary going into stores to encounter such resistance. No matter how many glares and stares you give some just will do what they want to. I am hoping 2021will look and feel different.

    • There’s always hope, right?

      I’m concerned now about people who are going to work and elsewhere while awaiting COVID test results. I just do not get it. The stupidity. The selfishness. The lack the care for the health of others.

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