“I like Northfield.” That’s what I said to my six-year old daughter last night as I carried her piggy-back home from “Townie Night” at the Defeat of Jesse James Days. Her response both surprised and delighted me. “Me, too. There are so many good things to do. Lots of good places to go. We know so many people. And even if we don’t know them, people are nice and say hi. And there are street lights so we can see where we are going in the dark. And a good [transit] system so people who don’t have cars can get where they need to.”
I could spend hours reflecting on how proud I am of my daughter for caring that there is a transit system to serve those who don’t have their own cars – but that’s not really the point of this post. The point I’d like to make is more about the feeling of connectedness that we both experienced at the DJJD last night. Whether you are a DJJD junkie who starts the count down until next year on the Monday morning following the festivities, or a townie who tries to leave town to avoid the traffic and congestion and craziness – it is hard to deny that people come out and socialize during the festival. We probably all overeat, and spend more money than we ought to – but we also celebrate our history and our common heritage. We might squabble over whether ASL and Spanish language interpretations of the bank raid are a good idea or not, but at least we try it. We take steps forward, and then back, and then forward again.
The DJJD festival, for me, is a metaphor of how Northfield works as a community. There are a few who put their heart and soul into it – year round. There are those who think it should be the way it has always been, and those who think it should change and grow. There are serious moments, and silly moments. There is history and learning and collaboration – and controversy and frustration. Some decisions get made behind closed doors, others are made in the very public domain. But in the end, we benefit as a community because we work as a community.
I hope as the excitement of the DJJD weekend fades into the routine of a new academic year that we are able to hold on to the feeling of community that it inspires. I hope that we can use the same conversational skills we employ over street food in Bridge Square when we talk about the new safety center or the Highway 3 underpass or the future of the hospital. I hope that we remember how easy it was to say “hi”, and “Excuse me”, and “Isn’t this fun?” to strangers under the carnival lights when we meet those same strangers at the park, or in the grocery store, or at a football game. And I hope we are able to extend the same kind of hospitality to all who want to make Northfield their home as we do to those who want to visit and spend money here during the festival. If we are able to do all these things, then I’ll be right there with my daughter feeling grateful for the metaphorical streetlights that help us see where we’re going in the dark.