Letters (Jan. 25, 2012)

Hillsboro became ?home? for family

When moving to Hillsboro in August 2002, we did not know what to expect. Hillsboro was a rural town; we had lived in metropolitan and international settings. Marion County was agricultural; my pocket knife is about the extent of my toolbox!

Enrollment at the local high school was about 250; we came from a city in Indiana with a high school of 2,500. Many had told us Hillsboro and Marion County were difficult places in which to be accepted; we were actively engaged in community service in Huntington.

The Mennonite faith was predominant in Hillsboro; we had little understanding of Anabap?tism. Tabor College?s constituen?cy was located throughout the Great Plains and in California; we had never lived west of Chicago.

What was unknown not only became known, but home. The friendliness and security of small-town living was ideal for us. While my toolbox isn?t any larger, I have gained an appreciation for the strong work ethic and family values in agricultural communities.

Our children received a quality education in a supportive and nurturing environment at Hills?boro middle and high schools. Hillsboro and Marion County welcomed us with open arms, offering numerous community service opportunities.

Our faith has been strengthened and encouraged by our loving and caring church family at Parkview Mennonite Brethren Church.

Ministering at Tabor College provided meaningful work; dedicated colleagues; a transforming educational experience for our son; and, the privilege of being part of a mission to prepare students for a life of learning, work and service for Christ and his kingdom.

Thank you for making Hills?boro home.

Jim Elliott

Chicago, Ill.

Guest taken in by the qualities of Kansas

Kansas keeps calling me back. While my friends talk about the Caribbean, and my husband peruses Hawaiian travel sites, I long to return to Kansas.

It began with a question I posed to my friend Elaine, as to the beauty of the Flint Hills. Were they really flint? They were. The beauty of the long winding lagoon, colored the strangest blue-green I had ever seen, seeped into my soul. I was told me it was the result of flooding distressed farmland, after the ravages of the dust bowl.

This accounted for the distorted tree trunks, jutting through the lagoon, as we drove down a solitary road, blessedly bereft of development on either side. It was like listening in on a great composition as the composer knowingly guides you through a reverie you cannot escape and pulls you further into their music.

My enjoyment of Kansas had begun.

Next came Wichita, Newton, Hillsboro, Abilene, Alma and Topeka, and an odyssey of beautiful, loving individuals, each marked by the trait of simple generosity and quiet intelligence I had not encountered so steadily in all my travels.

I pondered long about this find. I am prone to such pondering, always seeking a better understanding. I came to the conclusion, after a young man in a Hillsboro service station raised my wounded car up high and charged me nothing for this, that another generation of kindly, enlightened folk was rising up out of this windblown land preparing to quietly, but determinedly, better the life experience.

Shortly after, another Kansas soul dismantled a piece of furniture to fit it into my car, so I might get it to a person who it belonged to, and to whom it meant a great deal. This was not a brief dismantling, and it was done outside in the storied Kansas wind. But all of it was done purposely and lovingly.

A modern version of Aunt Em met me for a cup of coffee. Her lovely face shone with love and pride as she described the two Native American sons her husband and she were taking steps to raise. They were well past their childbearing years, and both retired scientists.

It was their first time being parents, and she moved me with her sincere desire to do it right. As she showed me the photos of her sons, the love in her voice rolled back any lines on her face.

In a small, extraordinary creamery in Alma, a fourth-generation family member shared with me the creamery?s long history as I purchased some of the most incredible cheese I had ever eaten, as well as a newfound treat for me?peppernuts!

My traveling companion told me in her Mennonite youth, the women would gather and bake them by the hundreds…little round, brown pastries uniquely a little peppery…a little gingery….maybe a little molasses, too….but great.

I brought them back and shared them with friends. A Franciscan nun ate most of them and said they were much like simple baked treasures she?d had in Europe.

I decided then it was the keeping of simple pleasures, enlightened by communal hard work and shared struggles, with a mutual dedication to a tradition of continuous reparation, that was what made Kansas so beautiful for me. I can?t wait to get back. I only touched briefly on a few of the fine people I met, and their lives of goodness. I could write a book!

Gail Rajala Hayden

Minneapolis, Minn.

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