A place is a place because of the people who live there. Such is Greensburg, Kansas for me.
Nothing quite beats a car trip on a sunny, if cold, winter’s afternoon. The sun is welcome and appreciated on such days, unlike the summer sun with its scorching rays. Perhaps that’s the best therapy a person might ask for after a few days cooped up inside due to illness, bad weather, or other circumstances.
Such it was that I found myself headed to Greensburg with work at the end of last week. Familiar places—even ones that have changed significantly, as Greensburg has—are like old friends. I realized while traveling there that I have been working in or out of Greensburg and Kiowa County for over 11 years.
Over that time, I’ve come to know a few people there. It’s always nice to see a familiar face, especially in a place like Greensburg, which has lost so many familiar faces. Perhaps that’s what really makes a place—the people who live there. Invariably, when I spend a little time in town, I see someone I know.
The Bulk Food Store came up in conversation at one customer’s residence. The store never reopened after the tornado, but it was a great place to find items you would normally have to travel to Garden City, Wichita or Hutchinson to purchase. Their sandwiches were delicious and affordable for a case manager working at a mental health center.
I picked up a new calendar at Greensburg State Bank to replace the outdated one in my office and saw bank teller Jackie Carlton, who I’ve known since Iroquois Center days. We had a good, if brief, visit.
I recognized many other familiar faces in the course of doing my work that day, and several remembered me also. “You’re the one who rode your bike over from Pratt,” a nurse at the hospital, who I hadn’t seen in awhile, recalled.
We sometimes bemoan that we’ve lost our sense of place, but, really, what we’re saying is that the people who we once conversed with and built relationships with are no a longer part of our lives. Perhaps, the most poignant example of this was in a conversation I once had in the course of my work for the area agency on aging. As part of an assessment I regularly perform, I ask about ability to look up numbers in a phone book and make telephone calls. After a brief pause, one gentlemen replied, “There isn’t anybody left to call.”
Some places become a part of you, even when you don’t live there. I feel fortunate to still travel to Greensburg and Kiowa County and thus to maintain a connection with the area and its people.
Bob Seger sings, “Rock and roll never forgets,” and neither do small towns. They remember their people, the ones who have worked in and walked upon their streets.