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Important message needed more people in the room
Joni Hubred, News Editor
heart of steele, joni hubred, james bowey, refugees

James Bowey held his audience in the Owatonna Public Library Gainey Room spellbound for more than an hour last week, with photos and stories shared by Minnesota refugees.

His simple yet profound message explained the importance of human connection and the tremendous value of welcoming strangers with different perspectives and experiences into our lives. Bowey melds gorgeous portraits with harrowing stories that reflect the reality of what happens “when home won’t let you stay,” the title of his presentation.

There was just one problem with the event: Only about a dozen people were in the room to see it.

Mid-week, evening events are hard to work into the schedule, especially for families with young children. But in a town of more than 25,000 souls, during a week devoted to being more welcoming to everyone, including immigrants, the turnout seemed exceptionally low.

That’s unfortunate, because Bowey talked about some things that have to do not only with refugees and immigration, but also how we are all lonelier these days, less connected with others. He talked about surveys that show nearly half of Americans have three or fewer friends.

And the funny thing, Bowey said, is that people who are lonely tend to isolate themselves even more. People who are disconnected–a real challenge for humans, who are exceptionally social beings–can become angry, even violent.

While focused on what we can learn from refugees who have endured brutal living conditions but still move forward, still forgive, still seek human connection, Bowey also talked a lot about why we’re so mad at each other now, why our political divides lead to family divides, and what we can do about it.

It was a great presentation, one that did my heart good. I’m just sorry so many others missed it.

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