“For the first time, the census shows more Minnesotans living in cities than in the country. For example, the population of Cottage Grove Township grows sixfold in the 1950’s. Builders convert thousands of acres of farmland into suburban housing tracts that promise wholesome family living within commuting distance of downtown jobs.” *
Total population in MN = 2,792,300
Total urban population = 1,390,098 (49.80%)
Total rural population = 1,402,202 (50.20%)
Total Population in MN = 2,982,483
Total urban population = 1,624,914 (54.50%)
Total rural population = 1,357,569 (45.50%) *
It’s a bit strange to think that Minnesota’s cities and suburbs are so young. We were mostly a culture of agriculture only 70 years ago, yet that farming tradition changed in roughly the span of a decade?! What prompted these changes, and the results of these new suburban patterns of life?
Let’s recap what happened previous to the fifties; Minnesotans had survived the belt-tightening of the Great Depression, and the duress of WWII. In order to win the war, massive factories like the Twin Cities Ordnance Plant and FMC needed oceans of laborers nearby.**,*** Many of our people who were raised on farms, followed jobs and a sense of patriotic duty to factory jobs in the cities. Our people shoe-horned themselves in the urban housing available at the time, but many looked for a solution to their dilemma of remaining close to work without sacrificing a connection to the land.
Enter the surburbs! Imagine the joy of these ancestors as they moved from tight apartments, trailers, or rented rooms to owning a brand new place in a brand new town with optimistic names like Roseville, Golden Valley, or Richfield?! Granted, their living space didn’t increase dramatically. Many of these early suburban floorplans were under 800 square feet. **** However, now their “apartment” had: two bedrooms, a living room, dinette and kitchen, private bathroom, a front yard, a backyard, a garage, and was at least a full 12 feet from the next-door neighbor’s wall?! They found solace in the idea that they were still close enough to work, but could still see some green every day or even plant a garden on their own land.
So here we come to You in prayer! You are the Master of the Open Field, the Property Manager of All Cities, and the Mayor of the Suburbs. Will You give us insight as we remember this moment in our history with You? Help us think through the impact of shifting from country to city to suburbs.
Let’s begin with some common sense. Living on a farm doesn’t a farmer make. Every people group has its explorers who want, and maybe need to go beyond the shire. It’s just in their nature to be curious about whats around the next corner. So we thank You for the explorers of Minnesota who left the farm to seek a new life in the city. We thank You that their willingness to relocate and adapt helped our society throw off real threats to our freedoms in World War II.
Though we do not think of these “explorers” as refugees in the modern sense, we can acknowledge to You that they were surely displaced peoples. Although they shared the same rights, privileges, and duties of their neighbors in the cities it doesn’t seem a stretch that they did not share in the cultures or sub-cultures of the cities. What kinds of judgments did rural Minnesotans make towards their urban counterparts? How did those raised in the city judge the “small townies”?
One profound difference that comes to mind is that rural people must “make do” out of necessity. When geographically isolated, one must become their own mechanic, carpenter, toolsmith, doctor, and nurse. There is not the luxury to rely on specialists found in the city. So we praise You for the resourcefulness that these rural Minnesotans brought into Minneapolis and Saint Paul. We also ask that You forgive them any judgments of the ineptitude and pettiness of those who only know the streets.
Conversely, those that live in the city, perhaps, are more schooled in people. They can rely more on others because the opportunity for more mutually beneficial relationships exist. They can specialize in a craft or science because survival is no longer a threat. The variety and breadth of opportunity increases with our exposure to more relationships. So we thank You for this type of knowledge of people, and the expansion of opportunity found by the increase of our population living in town. Will You forgive them their judgments of the naivete of the rural, of not knowing or following their etiquette?
In all of these judgments’ past, we still retain their taste in our mouths. We sometimes think of our neighbors as: “hipsters”, “yuppies”, or “thugs” if they’re too urbane. It’s right there on the tip of our tongues when we see a: “hick”, “redneck”, or “backwoods” person fumble to order a coffee. To live in a secure neighborhood surrounded by a small yard is now synonymous with being a: “Karen”, “soccer mom”, “Joe six-pack”, or even, gulp, “suburban”. (And these are the nice derogatory terms we think and feel in our hearts and minds.)
So we land here, Lord, we are inheritors of a mixed fruit basket; some is delectable, and some is rotten. Will You forgive our judgements past, present, and future on their desire to have a safe place to call home? Will You forgive Minnesota our judgments’ based on our neighbor’s place of origin?
Will You bless our cities, suburbs, and rural communities to welcome new neighbors? Will You teach our society to honor those with a different place of origin than ours? You respect our need for place and property; only let us pay that forward.
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” John 14:3 NIV
* P.T.H. cites timeline formerly at this URL: mnhs.org/about/dipity_timeline.htm