Issue 9: Welcome to Minnesota, Here’s Your Hat

Melody WarnickCool projects, Moving, Placemaking

Moving to a new city is like walking into a party where you don’t know anyone. You’re secretly hoping everyone’s going to fight each other for dibs on being your new best friend, and when that doesn’t happen (because does that ever happen?) you end up hovering near the metaphorical hors d’oeuvres table, wishing someone would please acknowledge your existence.

You’re not alone. Pretty much everyone experiences that I AM UTTERLY ALONE moment when they move to a new city. Then you make friends, your brain resets, and you develop amnesia about how hard it once was.

Artist Jun-Li Wang remembered. She transplated to Minnesota from California and, not surprisingly, hated it at first. The one thing that made her feel physically and metaphorically warmer in her new homtown was a fake fur–lined hat. Maybe, she thought, it would help other newcomers too. So she started the nonprofit St. Paul Hello. Every couple months, the group invites new St. Paul residents to a ceremony where they’re presented with, yes, a hat. So far they’ve given away about 600.

So here’s the goal: Give other people a hat. Metaphorically speaking. Give them whatever little bit of friendship or instruction made you feel at home in your town. Tell someone about your favorite secret park, or give them a map of all the traffic-avoiding shortcuts. Invite them to a party and tell them you want to be their best friend.

Or literally give them a hat. That works too.

7 items of interest

1. Eventually the weather’s going to turn nice. When it does, you should become a Front Yard Person.
2. “Much of how we learn about one another as a society comes from physically being together in places like skating rinks.”
3. How food (and a PBS TV show) saved a Southern town.
4. A TEDx talk about a city that’s converting an abandoned railroad track into 22 miles of walking and biking paths.
5. Mouse-sized shops in a Swedish city! Can you survive this level of adorable?
6. Books are important, but this little free food pantry that a family set up in front of their house makes a strong case for a more practical sort of neighborliness.
7. “We rescue pianos and put them on the street for everybody to enjoy.” Do this right now.

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