Ronda Graff

Community Connections

News and views from the McCook Community Foundation Fund


Take the view of an outsider

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Last weekend, I took the latest Graff child to college in northwest Iowa. It is a small school with a swimming program. Additionally, it was located in a small community, where he wonít get lost in the shuffle or just be a number. (The same can be said for McCook Community College and yet another reason for kids to stay here, if only they had a swim team.)

Having selected the school site unseen due to the pandemic, we had no idea where the school was located within the community. But with less than 3,500 residents, I figured we would just drive around until we found the campus, looking for a bunch of college-appropriate buildings.

That was actually easier said than done. We found the campus in the last place we looked. (But isnít that always true, because you quit looking as soon as you find something).

In between, we stumbled across a Caseyís convenience store with two charging stations for electric vehicles, a lake with a beach and swimming area in the middle of town and a casino with an 8-story hotel attached, which my son first assumed was his dorm. He wishes.

I was in impressed with many of the things the town had to offer, not including the miles of walking and bike trails around the lake.

Yet, Iím sure many of the residents take these amenities for granted, because it often takes the view of an outsider to appreciate everything we have.

But this pandemic has given all of us the opportunity to take a step back and to be grateful for the things we do haveÖand even the things we donít have. (We are pretty lucky not to face hurricane and wildfires on a regular basis.)

As I stood in line earlier this week waiting to order lunch at a local restaurant, I couldnít help but overhear the conversation behind me. A couple - noticeably overdressed for McCook - was debating on what to order, not knowing the menu. Since I canít pass up the chance to talk to someone, I told them that no choice was going to be bad and made a few suggestions.

The couple turned out to be two attorneys from Omaha, in town for a case at the courthouse. Having decided on their order, they proceeded to rave about the crowd at lunch, asked for a suggestion to narrow down their choice for dinner and how they hoped to stop at a few of the shops in town before they headed back.

And they arenít alone. As I waited for lunch, I ran into a friend, who is also an attorney from North Platte, and he commented that he actually doesnít mind the drive to McCook. In fact, he looks forward to the days he has cases in McCook because he gets to frequent some of his favorite restaurants.

Although North Platte may be larger and has a lot of chain restaurants, they donít seem to have those unique, home-owned restaurants and businesses that seem to thrive in McCook, a fact that many of us take for granted.

Whenever family comes to visit, they arrive with a list of must-haves: fries from Macís Drive-In and donuts from Sehnertís Bakery, to name just a few stops. And while the franchises are great to have in the community, it is the independent, unique businesses which get people to come back to McCook again and again.

And it isnít just the businesses which outsiders seem to appreciate. We have three lakes in such close proximity of our community that it makes us the envy of many fishermen, boaters and outdoorsmen. We have the space to socially distance whether in our parks or on the walking trail or even our own backyards, while many people have been cooped up in an apartment for months on end.

When you have a moment, walk down Norris Avenue, drive along B Street or bike around town with the intention of taking it all in as an outsider. Yes, youíll see things that could be improved. Youíll see that you forgot even existed. But most likely, youíll see things that we have taken for granted, that someone from the outside would love to have in their own community.

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