When I belonged to a church in Golden, Colo., a guest minister visited one year with a message that has stuck with me ever since. He spoke about making a commitment to be part of a community. See, he arrived at the church he now calls home when the community was rife with poverty, drug addiction and crime. At first, the congregation didn’t allow themselves to get close to him, assuming he would last about as long as those that came before him--six months or a year at best. After a while, he even began to wonder if he should move on, but after performing a funeral service for a member, he was inspired. The next day, he went to the local cemetery and bought himself and his wife burial plots.
The next Sunday, he shared the news with the congregation. He wanted them to know that his commitment to serving them was so strong, that he was willing to be there with them through thick and thin, that he would commit a lifetime to them.
Working at a newspaper brings us close to death every day. We report on accidents and we receive and edit obituaries on a regular basis. And in reading those obituaries, we find that people are often brought home to places from their past, but just as often, they’ve made this area home, and they are buried in the local cemetery. It’s like a final statement about not only who you were, but where you were.
It’s been a year since I rolled into Great Bend with my moving van and my kids, a newlywed and a new graduate. It was a lot different than the front range of the Rocky Mountains where I grew up, as well as the hillier North Central Kansas town of Concordia we just moved from. The only time I’ve ever spent significant time somewhere this flat was when I visited Southern Florida for a summer. That, believe it or not, is more flat than the Great Bend area.
Sometime in the past few years, I realized I’m more a Kansan than a Coloradoan. I don’t know how it happened, or when exactly it happened, but when my siblings and mom came to camp with us in June followed two weeks later by the kids’ grandfather, I couldn’t deny it.
There was a level of activity and expectation that doesn’t match the easy going, natural pace the people of Kansas naturally adopt. Perhaps it is best described as a constant state of climbing, attempting to get to the top of a hill to see out as far as you can. But in Kansas, we have the long view, no climbing required. We’re already at the high point in the landscape most of the time, simply by standing up. There is an ease that comes with it. I can’t describe it any other way.
Recently, one of my daughters asked me if I decided to move again someday, where would I want to move to. After some thought, I told her I don’t believe I would move away from Kansas, that it feels like home now. If I were to move away, I would want to move to a vacation destination though--someplace where I could ride my bike, get close to nature, enjoy a hike, walk to the store, have fun activities to attend, wouldn’t need to rely on a car to get around. The more I thought about it, the more it sounded like I’m already here.
Good and bad abounds in every community, and there will always be room for improvement wherever you live. I’m not sure if I’m ready to commit to my eternal spot of ground in a cemetery yet, but this transplant is starting to send out some new roots.