Archived Story

Community fabric keeps Albert Lea strong

Published 9:10am Thursday, July 4, 2013

Column: Coming Together, by Thoburn Thompson


There is so much to celebrate as I walk, bike or ride around Albert Lea and Freeborn County. A late, wet spring has made wonderful shades of green the dominant color in the landscape. Now that summer is upon us, awareness of the beauty of our city, county and state parks is thrilling. Children are out in the playgrounds and older ones are in playing fields groomed so well by their caretakers.

Thoburn Thompson
Thoburn Thompson

Walking, biking and fishing along the shores of our lakes occupy many people; all ages, genders, occupations, ethnic backgrounds and places of residence. Yards are being planted with annuals and perennials, downed trees replaced.

Dumpsters indicate remodeling. Tractors and other big machinery promise big changes in streets and highways. Firefighters, public safety officers and emergency medical technicians are at work and ready to help. Caregivers in our homes and institutions continue their patient attention to those we love. Cherished friendships are renewed by visits, families gather in reunions and celebrations of the journeys of life; births, weddings and deaths.

Special events bring us together to honor persons, campaigns of freedom, struggles against diseases and addictions and community institutions. I am grateful for the schools that nurture our students who mirror changing demographics and launch them into lives of challenge and life-long learning. It is easy to see all of these things.


While exulting in the wonder of it all, I am ashamed to say that looking deeper is a more difficult task. The economic situation has not improved for everyone, and not just because good paying jobs are scarce. Food shelf use and Salvation Army meals are not declining. Domestic abuse, substance abuse, teenage homelessness, mental illness, inadequate housing, intolerance of the ‘other’, paranoia, grief and loneliness, and fear of the future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren.

All are present among us in our community.

We are all in life together, we are woven together in this community, and we will be a stronger community when the threads of shared pleasures and the threads of common concern build a strong fabric that we can be proud of. I hope for a strong fabric that can stretch, but not break into so many pieces that we cannot hold or cover or protect the most vulnerable among us.


Thoburn Thompson is a member of the Albert Lea Human Rights Commission.