Full disclosure: I was not raised in a church-y family, and although I was born in Faribault, Minnesota I haven’t spent a lot of my life there. Nonetheless, I was raised as a Minnesota Methodist, next door to but not quite the same as Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon Lutherans. And although Methodism is technically a creedal denomination, we put most of our emphasis on faith through good works. Here’s my version of the five things you need to do to be a Minnesota Methodist; feel free to join!
1. Always feed your animals before you feed yourself. This one is pretty straightforward: take care of the critters who depend on you. And it has a practical Midwestern twist – by holding off your own dinner until you’ve fed them, you’ll never forget. There may also be a message in here about work before play…but that’s for you to decide.
2. Choose kindness. This one seems simple, but can be a little harder in execution. Is it kinder to tell your colleague that you saw her husband out with another woman, or kinder to keep your silence? Usually, though, if the intention of kindness is kept front and center, the right action will follow.
3. Do your work as well as you can. The variant of this is “do your work so you’re proud of it.” I think these two variations boil down to the same thing, doing our best on any given day, and at any given task. Taking responsibility in the work, and pride in a job well done. This simple guideline takes you out of the realm of perfection and into, simply, the doing the best you can at the moment.
4. Stand up for what you believe in. It’s no accident that Minnesota is considered a pretty progressive state, lots of Methodists standing up and being active for what they believe in. Action is the key – again, faith through good works.
5. And keep a loaf of homemade banana bread and a tuna hotdish in the freezer, so you’re prepared for anything. The sudden death of a neighbor; a new baby; unexpected company. All merit an immediate visit to the family, with a gift of food in hand. I used to think this one was about getting good gossip (and that’s a side benefit, of course) but at its base it’s about community, and connection, and comfort.
I’ll leave with a link to a lovely poem from Julia Kasdorf, “What I Learned from My Mother” while I take a few minutes away from work to go and make a tuna hotdish and stick it in the freezer.