BEMIDJI -- Ten years ago, Kelly King turned to Bemidji's Village of Hope, homeless and carrying her infant grandson. Homelessness is not an issue a lot of people fully understand, or want to acknowledge; King's experience shaped the course of her life. Today, she works full-time at Village of Hope as an advocate for others seeking shelter. King is often the first person people talk to when they come to the village, and she makes sure to share her own experiences. "When I tell them that I have been here, and I have been homeless, it puts them at ease.
BEMIDJI -- "In high school, I would skip class all the time and go play guitar out in the park. I wanted to be a rock and roll star." Instead, Dr. Giniwgiizhig, an enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, went on to attain two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree and a doctorate in education. Today, he's the assistant professor of Ojibwe language at BSU. Although he teaches beginning, intermediate, and advanced language classes, Giniwgiizhig did not grow up speaking Ojibwe.
"At this age in my life, I realize more and more that I don't have the answers," Mary Hoody says, "and lots of days you don't even have the right questions." Mary and her husband, Howard, have lived in Bemidji for 35 years. For more than 30 years, she taught religious formation at St. Philip's School, where she focused on helping youth engage in service projects and social justice initiatives. "There are only three things in my life that I'm certain of," she says. "The first is that I don't have the answers.
BEMIDJI -- "I'm a really strong believer in listening to your inner voice," says Marlon Davidson. "A lot of people turn it off, and absolutely do not listen, and go another way." Davidson has approached most of his nearly 80 years of life with a great deal of thoughtfulness and a strong intention to listen to this voice -- even when it isn't easy. An accomplished visual artist and published author, Davidson taught art for more than 25 years at a public school in St. Paul, and later at Bemidji State University, before retiring to focus on his art and writing full time.
BEMIDJI -- "Growing up, the other kids probably saw me as a goody-two-shoes," Rachel Munson says with a laugh while sipping her coffee outside on a sunny July day. "And I was. I was so good." Born and raised in Bemidji, Munson attended TrekNorth High School, where she worked hard and excelled academically. "I'm a perfectionist" she acknowledges, "and I've known that from a very small age." She was determined to stay on the path to success. Though she says she had great friends and lot of fun in high school, she also describes herself as "a bit uptight" and anxious.
BEMIDJI -- "Being locked away in a blank room without a book, without a pen and paper, would probably be, for me, the highest level of torture that I could think of." Scott Knudson thrives on growth and has an infectious enthusiasm for learning and expanding his understanding of the world around him. "It is the most amazing time, ever, to be alive," he says. "I feel really fascinated and privileged to wake up in the world I do, every day.
BEMIDJI -- Don't underestimate Anna Goldtooth. She may be young, slightly soft-spoken, and self-described as "a little shy," but she has found her voice as a leader. Since 2011, she's worked to reduce rates of HIV, suicide, teen pregnancy and other health problems among American Indian youth. She grew up in Bemidji, and her current position is education and outreach programs manager at Planned Parenthood MN, ND, SD. This role has her meeting with community leaders, speaking at conferences and developing and delivering educational training programs to youth.
Editor's note: "Living on purpose" is a monthly feature about Bemidji area residents who actively seek to create meaningful and fulfilling lives. It is inspired by the belief that each person has valuable wisdom to contribute, and by sharing and learning from one another, we can improve the quality of our own lives and our community. Saying that Robert Saxton has a zest for life might be a bit of an understatement. If you know him, you know he approaches life with a sense of adventure.