AS I CONTINUE MY REVIEW of 2022 with a focus on messages found and photographed while out and about in the second half of the year, I hope you will feel moved to reflection and thoughtfulness. Words can hurt or heal. Words can diminish or build up. Words can defeat or encourage. Words are powerful and we need to remember that. Always. In 2023, I wish for more kindness and understanding, more compassion and love, more goodness in the words we speak and write.
Inspirational messages on benches in public spaces always draw my attention and my camera lens. Whether at a nature center, city park, garden or elsewhere, I will pause and read such uplifting quotes. I loved this message on a bench at the Rice County Master Gardeners Teaching Gardens in Faribault. Touching the lives of others in a compassionate and meaningful way is among the greatest legacies one can leave.
Some time after the Rice County Fair ended, I meandered through the fairgrounds. During that look-around, I found a 4-H food stand sign leaning against a building. Painted with the 4-H theme of hearts, hands, head and health, it offered qualities we should all strive to follow: a heart to greater loyalty, hands to larger service, a head to clear thinking and health to better living. How much better this world would be if we followed the 4-H motto, and supported 4-Hers by dining at “1 great food stand.”
September took me back to my native southwestern Minnesota to view an exhibit, “Making Lyon County Home,” at the Lyon County Historical Society Museum in Marshall. Two of my poems, “Hope of a Farmer” and “Ode to my Farm Wife Mother,” are included in that exhibit. To see my writing displayed there along with the work of other noted southwestern Minnesota writers was truly an honor.
A posted quote from poet and essayist Bill Holm speaks to the influence of the land on writers. He notes the difference between the woods eye and the prairie eye. As prairie natives, Holm (now deceased) and I see with prairie eyes. He summarizes well the influence of the prairie on creativity. I’ve always felt the prairie influence in my writing and photography.
In a world that today feels more divisive than ever, I am encouraged by messages like the “EVERYONE WELCOME” sign posted in the window of a downtown Faribault business. I like how each colored line layers atop the previous one until the words emerge in a bold black, EVERYONE WELCOME.
I laughed when I read the poster in the window of my local library: Because not everything on the internet is true. Duh? Yet, it’s a message that needs to be posted because too much inaccurate and blatantly false information circulates online and people believe it. That’s the scary part. And then the falsehoods are repeated and they grow into something awful and horrible and detrimental.
My chosen words for December come from the Adopt-a-Tree program in Faribault. Businesses, individuals, non-profits and more purchase and decorate trees to give to families in need of a Christmas tree. But before those trees go into homes, they are displayed at Central Park.
One donor focused on suicide crisis intervention and prevention and support for those who have lost loved ones to suicide. Anything that opens the conversation about mental health gets my backing. We need to continue talking about mental health. We need to reduce the stigma.
But beyond conversation, we need to “do.” We need to show care and compassion for those living with mental health struggles. We need to support and encourage them, and those who love them. We desperately need more mental healthcare professionals so people in crisis can access care immediately. Wait times of six weeks or more are unacceptable. Try waiting six weeks if you’re having a heart attack. That’s my comparison.
As we move into 2023, I am hopeful. Hopeful that we can grow more compassionate and kind. Hopeful that I will continue to discover positive messages posted throughout southern Minnesota.
Happy New Year, everyone!
© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling