A Little Free Library, a Community, a Story

Just a Story…

A funny little thing happens when the neighborhood comes together.  You loosen up.  You feel connected.  And most of all, you learn something.

I am writing this immediately after the first community event from the Macalester Community Little Free Library.  For a little context, my girlfriend and I caught wind of the community installation trend that’s sweeping the nation (ok, the Midwest at least).  The Little Free Library is basically an intricate wooden box where books can be freely displayed and purveyed in the neighborhood.  We felt it would be cool if we got one in order to connect Macalester student writing with the surrounding community.  We were also hoping to connect with a spot that would allow us to host community events and let those writings live out in the community.  We won a grant, got the Library…and waited to find a partner.

As it turned out, getting a partner proved to be difficult and we ended up in a sort of library purgatory, the structure in our hands but no place to put it.  But, much like stumbling upon the library is a popular way to find it, I came across a library very close to MacalesterCollege and the house my girlfriend and I were staying in on Berkeley Avenue.  I spoke with a Mom and her daughter who I thought was the owner of the library, but they turned out to simply be neighbors of the owner.  As I told my story of my library, her eyes lit up and she said that she owned an art studio around the corner on Snelling Avenue, King Studios.  After some nifty engineering by her husband, the library is still in its hanging home underneath the studio’s roof.

Through a simple story, my girlfriend and I found the community space we were looking for, and with that, we acted to host tonight’s proceeding: A Storytelling Open Mic.  The premise was simple, bring yourself, bring a story and enjoy.  And from people who had lived in the neighborhood for 24 years to people who had only moved in just ten days prior, we had a wide range of community represented.

Here are some things that I learned:

  • Minnesota Nice is not just the stuff of dreams: It’s real folks.
  • While the rivers may have stopped burning, the passion for Cleveland hasn’t.
  • Home doesn’t leave just because it’s easy.  If anything, it becomes more real.
  • I suddenly have a reason to get excited about Halloween thanks to Palace Ave.
  • Cannibals: Cut them some slack.
  • If someone promises you with chocolate croissants, it is most likely a trap.

However, the most important thing I learned was the power of receiving community.  We had no sign up list, no really specific theme, and certainly no direct incentives for anyone to go up and tell a story.  But, people kept coming up and building off of the stories that were shared and coming up with different ways of telling them.  I am grateful for everyone who felt the need to share and to give to a community that was simply there to listen.  What I learned was a deeper understanding of what community can provide, especially when you don’t know what’s coming.

All I asked for was a story.  I should have expected to get more than I bargained for.


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