John Andrist: Rediscovering Pieces of the Heart


Participants arrive for the the second morning session Thursday, July 21, 2016, of the TEDx Fargo event at the Fargo Civic Center.

Last week, together with 1,195 others, I spent a whole day listening to 22 short speeches suggesting we take a look at our world with new eyes.

The event was not political, not anything for that matter, other than idea sharing. They call it TEDx, which stands for technology, education and design.

The presentations were each 12 to 20 minutes long. Here are just a few of the concepts shared with us:

  • North Dakota First Lady Kathryn Burgum, a recovering alcoholic, told us new eyes should understand that addiction is a disease, not a bad habit. Alcohol, opioids, and other drugs may be villains, but the root problem is a mental clinker we call addiction. It is a disease and needs to be treated as such.
  • Women are a superior emerging gender in just about every aspect of American life. Once relegated to the role of mother and homemaker, women today now represent more than half of our bread winners. They clearly are dominating our church and social life our arts, science and financial management.
  • Most great things and most high achievers do not come from a fringe of brilliance, but from people in the “middle”. Make that average. The future will see most great things coming from ordinary people in the heartland of our country.
  • If what we long for is a sense of joy, we must fundamentally understand an old adage. We can experience joy only by giving it. It made me wonder if perpetrators of crime ever get to be happy or “joyful”.
  • One speaker said she moved eleven times, always in quest of a new beginning, before discovering the holy grail is within us, not in a distant city or country. Building satisfying relationships and seeking interactions within the context of a community work better than getting on another bus.
  • I don’t understand trans gender, but a woman who began her life as a man won empathetic applause when she asked, “Can you visualize being in a public setting, needing to use a restroom, and worrying about where you can go without getting arrested.
  • And a high school girl also drew courageous applause by appealing that we take the social wrap off menstruation, recognizing it is a basic biological function. Public restrooms are always stocked with paper towels and toilet paper, but rarely with the supplies to assist young women who suddenly have a sanitation emergency.

The best part of a whole day spent at a TEDx event is the vacation from talking about people, spending it instead on ideas.

You can always go home

Earlier in this piece I mentioned the speaker who had moved eleven times in search of new beginnings.

That really wasn’t me. I’m the opposite. I spent my whole life in Crosby, not counting a year in college and temporary stays in Bismarck.

Matter of fact in 80 years I had only two parental homes and two more as an adult.

I never yearned for a new beginning anywhere, confident that Crosby was “my place”.

Although I scoured most of this country and a significant part of our world for adventure and curiosity, I never got over that special feeling on the return trip when the first signs of my town appeared on the horizon.

It started as a child in the family car when we kids would watch the skyline to see who could be first to spot the old water tower.

A unison, repetitive chant followed: “I see Crosby, I see Crosby . . .” My kids did the same if they weren’t asleep.

There is little that’s unique. Reunions happen in every town and every school. It’s the way we cultivate memories from former parts of our lives, and rekindle old friendships.

Crosby just happened to be my place in my time. I think we leave pieces of our hearts wherever we go in our personal journeys. In my case I left a big chunk of my heart in Crosby.
And last week as so many of the faithful returned to celebrate in a reunion, I found that chunk imbedded in more than a thousand returnees who came to rediscover their roots.