May 19, 2013 by Sarah
From the panoramic prairies blanketed with snow to the golden waves of wheat in summer, Kansas boasts a beloved horizon. Our home is blessed with beauty in every season, yet there’s more to the Sunflower State than just aesthetically pleasing vistas. In fact, just beyond the wind turbines in North Central Kansas lies a charming small town that exhibits exquisite historical features as well as unmatched hospitality.
After high school, I was able to attend Cloud County Community College in Concordia for two years. As I moved away from my home, I wasn’t sure what kind of environment I would be entering. But the residents of Concordia quickly reached out and welcomed me into their community.
One of the first memories I made within the community was volunteering as a children’s group leader at the Wesleyan Church. My faith is important to me, and I knew getting involved in a ministry early on would not only allow me to meet some of the locals, but it would provide accountability and encourage my own walk of faith. It turned out to be a great experience and I grew to know many of the families in the area. Since Concordians are deeply integrated in their community, I was able to see those families at the store, at college sporting events and other places around town, affirming the hometown atmosphere.
Within the college itself, there is a great sense of community. The faculty and staff are always wiling to give freely of their time and lend their advice. By their example I learned that a smile and a kind word go a long way. Whenever I see someone in the hallway, I try to smile at them and hold a positive attitude. This community consisting of the college affiliates and the town’s people are testaments to the power of a positive attitude.
That positive attitude translates to the businesses downtown, which makes various errands and shopping trips more enjoyable. From my favorite coffee shop, Jitters, to the melodic notes trickling from Tom’s Music House, browsing stores downtown is a leisure activity, and you’re sure to run into someone you know along the way.
In addition to the welcoming ambiance demonstrated by businesses downtown, the people in this area also have a charitable history. In World War II there was a prisoner-of-war encampment north of town. The German soldiers who came to Camp Concordia reported that their experiences were filled with educational opportunities, which included earning credit from the University of Kansas, and a chance to pay in the community band — surely a contrast to other prisoner-of-war establishments.
Both past and present Concordians have been eager to extend kindness to newcomers, and I’m grateful to have been a part of this community. As my time in Concordia concludes, I know I will be leaving behind a second home. The people here have made these two years incredible and I will always associate Concordia with its hospitality and generosity.
— Leah Hill is graduating this spring from Cloud County Community College, where she has served as a Resident Assistant. She is originally from Holton, Kan.
May 3, 2013 by Sarah
I’ve heard nary a peep in the current foment over gun control that firearms have stolen our most talented leaders.
Lax security at Ford’s Theatre made President Abraham Lincoln an open and vulnerable target for handgun-wielding John Wilkes Booth, Confederate sympathizer and member of a fanatical terrorist network. A distracted auditorium full of theatergoers, committed to enjoying the latest stage comedy, instead witnessed one of our country’s most horrific tragedies. The magnitude of this paralyzing national tragedy wouldn’t be matched for another 98 years.
In Dallas, Texas, a parade gathering of average Americans, distracted by the thrill of seeing our president pass only yards in front of their eyes, failed to notice the barrel of a rifle sticking obscenely from a raised window at the Texas School Book Depository.
In a few seconds’ time, the Texas governor was shot and President John F. Kennedy was dead. It was street theatre at its most monstrous. The debate as to whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or was part of a terrorist network will go on. We’ll never know for sure because during his transfer from the Dallas County Jail, Oswald himself was murdered by handgun-carrying zealot Jack Ruby.
Five years later, Kennedy’s brother, Robert, had his own presidential bid end abruptly when he was shot in the head by a fanatic with a handgun in another case of lax crowd control.
That same year, l968, our great Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot down on the balcony of his motel room by rifle-toting loner, James Earl Ray.
What was this madness happening in our country? Were these unspeakable tragedies that robbed us of our best and brightest just payment for the privilege of living in an open and free society?
In l981, an assassination attempt on President Reagan by mentally disturbed John Hinkley Jr., seriously wounded Reagan and his assistant, James Brady.
Within a short amount of time, the White House and Congress mobilized for passage of the Brady Act, which laid out banning certain types of weapons and proposed waiting periods and background checks for purchase. Sound familiar?
The National Rife Association spent millions on its campaign to block the Brady Bill’s passage. Lawsuits in a number of states funded by the NRA wended at a snail’s pace all the way to the Supreme Court, which eventually ruled that background checks – as enacted — were unconstitutional. After a fight lasting 12 years, President Clinton in 1993 finally signed the Brady Bill, but by that time it was a mere shadow of its original self.
Do we have the time and money to watch helplessly as history repeats itself?
— Susan Sutton is Dean of Humanities and Social-Behavioral Sciences at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.
April 19, 2013 by Sarah
So why can’t the people who are littering think about this? That’s a mystery, but since we can’t stop those people from littering, we can clean up after them.
In order to keep our world clean, everybody needs to do our part.
One thing we can do is take part in a community trash cleanup project! These projects take huge amounts of trash off the streets. If every community were to have these projects, there would be a ton less litter ruining the world. These projects also help bring communities together.
Littering not only hurts the environment visually, but also through pollution. Our water can pick up harmful chemicals by flowing through trash.
What if this contaminated water then flows into a farm field? You could end up basically eating the chemicals from the trash. You can probably imagine the horrible effects this could have on living things.
Another thing we can do to help is recycle. We are wasteful with most of the things we own. Take a few extra seconds to make sure you can recycle an object, and put it in a recycling container. If every family recycles whenever they can, it will pay off through a cleaner world, with more resources.
Is it frustrating to see workers destroying our beautiful forests? Without these forests, some animals cannot live. These forests provide clean air to us. Also, the land where a forest used to be just looks dead after the forest is gone. It’s a lose-lose situation — so start a movement against forest removal! It’s worth a try, and if it saves our forests, there will be great rewards.
Everybody is required to do our part in order to beautify our world. A community bonds together when we work towards a goal as a team, and cleaning up the world cleans up your health! So why wouldn’t you take the time to bring your community together and help purify the Earth?
It’s up to you to save this world, so do your part today.
— Devin Kymer is an eighth grader at Concordia Junior High School and the son of Jeff and Deanna Kymer. Earth Day is April 22.
April 5, 2013 by Sarah
Unsung heroes… In Concordia we are blessed to have an abundance of unsung heroes! In fact, I cannot go through a day without encountering them — and I suspect that’s true for you also.
Our fire fighters and paramedics are caring, compassionate and competent. I have been in several situations in which an ambulance was called and their professionalism is superb!
Our medical providers and hospital personnel are among the finest anywhere. And they handle unique challenges such as efficiently providing services in locations throughout the county all while keeping focused on patient-centered care.
We can be exceedingly proud of our educators and school administrators at USD 333 and Cloud County Community College. Facing drastic budget cuts yet being asked to do more, they consistently provide an excellent education. They put in long hours because they care about our children and young adults.
Our law enforcement personnel face difficult situations regularly. Yet, in spite of hardship to them, they promise to protect us – people they often do not know and may never meet.
Our elected officials and volunteer governing boards give long hours, often with no thanks, because they believe in us all. They give of themselves because they have a vision and a hope for the future.
We have numerous nonprofit organizations providing a wide array of necessary services helping to improve our quality of life. Their employees are often underpaid and they rely on the goodness of dozens of volunteers to carry out their missions.
There are people in our retail stores who go the extra mile to assist us. Meeting the public is not always easy but they greet us warmly anyway and see that our needs are met.
Our young people are often unsung heroes – reaching out to new students, being involved in service clubs, applying themselves to their studies while often juggling sports, family obligations and part-time jobs.
Concordia has military personnel and government workers. They serve willingly and ably even when facing government cutbacks or changes. They help protect our freedom and ensure our rights.
This list could go on… and it should, to include those who are retired, disabled, parents, ministers and so many others. But the main thrust of this article is to salute everyone who goes about our day quietly doing what needs to be done, looking out for one another and trying to make our small corner of the world a better place.
These are the people who hold our community together. They are everyday heroes giving back to the community and the people around them. Noted Buddhist teacher and author Pema Chödrön says, “We don’t set out to save the world; we set out to wonder how other people are doing and to reflect on how our actions affect other people’s hearts.”
That’s why I say, and I think it may be your experience also, that I can’t go through a day without encountering Concordia’s own abundance of unsung heroes. A big thank you to us all!
— Sister Jean Rosemarynoski is a member of the Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph and chairs the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. If you have ideas or suggestions for the committee or want to get involved with the Year of Peace, contact Sister Jean at 243-2149 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or any of the other committee members.
March 15, 2013 by Sarah
Earlier this month I spent a few days in El Paso, Texas, with the first of two groups participating in the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Alternative Spring Break program. As they were arriving, the students were so animated and familiar with each other that I assumed they all were friends at the college they attend in Massachusetts. At least a full day passed before I realized that out of the 10 students, only a couple of them were acquainted before starting the trip.
Several of the students said they intentionally chose to go with people they didn’t know, to give themselves the opportunity to build personal relationships that go beyond the basic connection of attending the same college. They realized that they needed to actively participate in order to reap the true benefits that come from belonging to a community — friendship, exposure, knowledge and experience, to name a few.
It clearly didn’t take these students long to embrace wholeheartedly the spirit of relationship building! Over their week together, they had a chance to further build their own little community bond of memories that, hopefully, will grow even after they leave El Paso and return to their campus.
Watching these students interact was a pleasant reminder to myself to take every opportunity to jump into experiences that will connect me to others and keep my eyes, heart and mind open.
Just as we use the platform of a larger community to develop smaller, closer ones within, I believe we should also remember the importance of branching out from the personal level. It only takes two people to build a foundation of quality relationship and caring that can easily grow, connecting everyone it touches in community.
This poem by John Donne captures the spirit of human relationships:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend’s were.
Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
Relationships come at us from all directions; we should never pass an opportunity to develop new ones.
— Crystal Borhani is a Manhattan native with many friends in the Concordia area and on the Year of Peace Committee. She presently works for American Airlines, her background is in community development and she is an avid adventurer.
March 1, 2013 by Sarah
Over the last four years Concordia has had the opportunity to see the “Community Garden of Hope” come into existence. Now that our community garden is reality, I am regularly overjoyed by the abundance of produce and the nature of the smiles on the gardeners’ faces as we tend our plots. Even in the event of knee-high weeds and rabbit-eaten plants, the smiles and greetings persist. The longing to be there continues.
As the Concordia Year of Peace celebrates unsung heroes within our community, I want to celebrate Sister Betty Suther and Cecilia Thrash, the two women who oversee the community garden. They were behind the garden’s inception and will be the overseers for many seasons to come.
This project embodies the importance and effects of collaboration for many people in our community, including me.
Much of my interest came from a latent green thumb yearning to be developed. Then I realized my neighbors in the garden were also trying out their skills. My first stories of success were definitely turnips and carrots, but as time has progressed and my skills have increased, I am surprised by the diversity of produce and the hopeful feelings gardening brings.
Sister Betty Suther is the quiet and thoughtful visionary behind the community garden. She collaborated with many and hosted conversations about the best community garden design for Concordia. She looked for help with start-up costs and suggestions from our extension agents on how to be the most environmentally friendly.
Cecilia Thrash is the plotter. With assistance from many others, she helped establish the actual plots; she laid the first of the mulched paths, worked at recruiting people to tend the plots and did much of the first tilling of the plots. She continues to be the go-to person for gardeners needing help.
Cecilia has been a huge believer in the project. In fact, she’s been so involved that her husband has now decided to take on some leadership in the project.
As I saw (and continue to see) these two women working toward the goal of a functioning and beautiful garden, I am most exhilarated by their choice of the name, “Community Garden of Hope.”
From my perspective, “hope” is a word we sink into in times of need or distress, and every person knows those moments. The word seems to have the power to dig us out of the most despondent situations to see something better. “ Hope” is the mantra for our community garden and the inspiration for these two amazing gardeners of our community.
I have the distinct pleasure of working with these women. Their dedication is a source of hope and encouragement for me and for all the community garden gardeners. Thank you, Sister Betty Suther and Cecilia Thrash, for the thoughtful and fulfilling work you do to make our community a hope-filled place to be and to live.
— Sister Julie Christensen is a Sister of St. Joseph and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. She is the coordinator for youth and young adult programs at Manna House of Prayer.
Feb. 15, 2013: Positive results come from showing love and care for our community, by Jenna Fredrickson
February 15, 2013 by Sarah
The first thing I think of is our hometown and the people who live here. So how do we show love and care for the community we live in? By helping our neighbors and by keeping our community clean and attractive.
There are numerous ways we can show love and friendship for other people in our community.
When a family experiences a fire or a serious illness, neighbors show love and support both physically and financially. When we donate things we aren’t using anymore to the local thrift store, the money made from the sale of those items support activities in our community.
Churches also provide love and care for the community. Last year, members from a local church cleaned up and painted play equipment at two of our town’s parks.
Our schools benefit from the love and support of our community. People who attend sporting events, plays and concerts and sponsor other school activities show they care about the students and their teachers.
We can also show love and care for our community by keeping it clean and attractive. Many of our downtown buildings have been updated with fresh coats of paint and new windows. Pots with colorful flowers are set out when the weather is nice and decorations and flags are put up during the holidays and for other special events. The Whole Wall Mural turned an old brick wall into a popular tourist attraction.
Positive results happen from loving our community.
Many former Concordians come home to raise their families here. Concordia High School alumni talk on the radio about how their school experience has made them successful in their careers. Hundreds of people come home to Concordia for Fall Fest and alumni reunions.
Let’s continue to show our love and care for our community and set an example for others to follow
— Jenna Fredrickson is an eighth grader at Concordia Junior High School. She is the daughter of Ric and Lynette Fredrickson.
February 1, 2013 by Sarah
When I think about what that means, I recall a sign on the door of Sister Leah Smith’s room at Mount Joseph Senior Village.
“I cannot speak but I can wave Hi,” it reads, to let all who enter know this is a woman of spirit.
Many people in Concordia know Sister Leah from her 28 years working in the physical therapy department at Cloud County Health Center.
Department head Marci Rogers told me that while Leah’s official role before her retirement in 2009 was as secretary, what she was really known for was her smile and her ability to make others smile. She also had a laugh that came across as an inner chuckle reflecting a taste of humor.
Leah tried to remain anonymous in her kind gestures to other hospital personnel, through an unexpected casual note, an apropos cartoon, a piece of chocolate candy or some small creative art piece. And while there was never a signature on the surprise arrival, everyone knew that Leah had been there.
Marci spoke also of Leah’s attentiveness to children who came into the department. Leah was also attentive to children of co-workers and made “travel kits” for them when they were going on vacation.
Many of Leah’s former co-workers know about the challenge she faces today, but I wanted to share the story with those who don’t.
In October 2010, Leah’s friends first began to notice that something was wrong. What appeared first as faltering speech was quickly diagnosed as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or what is often called Lou Gehrig’s disease.
ALS is an incurable and progressive disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that control voluntary muscle movement.
For Leah, the progression led first to not being able to speak. Then she was unable to swallow, and a feeding tube was required. Ultimately she needed the care that Mount Joseph offers. Initially she was able to get around in a motorized wheel chair, but now, because of a loss of balance, she can no longer ride. She does retain the capacity to write notes, though this too is beginning to falter.
None of that means, though, that she has been forgotten by those who admire her.
During my recent visit to her room, she had music playing — music created for her as a gift from Marci Rogers’ children, who had been recipients years ago of Sister Leah’s “travel kits.”
Then there’s this tribute, written not too long ago by someone who worked with her in the PT department:
“After her battle with ALS had led to her being hospitalized, I was amazed at her ability to smile so big and so beautifully… Seeing the hope in her smile made us feel like everything was going to be all right. Is this the testament of her faith in the Lord or just the product of heroic courage in the face of a deadly disease?”
“Heroic courage” is an apt description of my witness of Leah’s on-going debilitating effects from ALS.
A particular quality of “heroes” is the ability to make a difference wherever they are; their personalities are magnetic and they often possess a distinctive creativity that attracts others. When I’m in the presence of a “hero” like that, I even say a little prayer that those qualities might rub off on me.
So one day when I was with Leah, I attempted the “rub-off” effect!
I was with her at Mount Joseph, and we were bantering back and forth — she with the written notes and I with spoken words.
“Leah, I am sorry you are not able to speak; because I would like to take a course from you on the development of a playful personality,” I said to her. And without missing a beat she picked up her pad and wrote, “Every day for the next four years.” Well, at least she thought I was teachable!
Of course, there are some not so good days. But the spark in Leah’s eyes remains steady, bright and attentive. Leah teaches with her life the beatitude, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God!”
— Sister Anna Marie Broxterman is a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee and serves congregational Leadership Council of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia.
January 18, 2013 by Sarah
By the Year of Peace Committee
Since the Concordia Year of Peace began in September 2009 — or, more accurately, since it was proclaimed by then-Mayor Greg Hattan — there have been a wide array of very visible (and very peaceful) components.
This column, for example. The Blade-Empire published the first Year of Peace column on Sept. 25, 2009, and from that Friday through Dec. 31, 2010, there was a column every week. We even published a book of those first 15 months worth of columns.
Then throughout 2011 and 2012 — and now into 2013 — there have been two columns a month, on the first and third Fridays.
And every month throughout that same time frame — nearly 3½ years now — there has been a Year of Peace radio spot on KNCK in Concordia.
There have been films and book studies; we’ve had National Night Out for the past two years in August; we’ve had booths at Fall Fest and even a float; we’ve had buttons and T-shirts and signs in merchant’s windows. And for three years we’ve asked citizens to make a public statement by signing the Civility Pledge. (We’re doing that again this year, by the way; civility never goes out of style.)
All very visible signs that folks in Concordia — a name derived from concord, of course, meaning harmony — are serious about peace.
But there are a couple of less visible signs that most Concordians may not be aware of, even though they’ve been a part of the Year of Peace from the very beginning.
When the Year of Peace Committee was first coming together in early 2009, members talked about all kinds of activities and events, and even themes. As the committee got ready to kick off the idea during Fall Fest 2009, Sue Sutton thought we really needed a song to go with that theme — and she even had a songwriter in mind.
Sue volunteered Patrick Sieben, and within just a couple of days, the Year of Peace had its theme songs.
Here are the lyrics for “A Little Piece of the Peace”:
Get a little piece of the peace
and pass it on to each other.
Give a little piece of the peace
to ev’ry sister and brother.
Happiness and freedom all over the land,
this is what we like to see;
the people of the planet living together
in peace and harmony. (Chorus)
Ev’ry where a story of hatred and strife,
darkening the brightest day.
A better way of living is loving each other
so let me hear you say: (Chorus)
“A Little Piece of the Peace” has been performed a number of times, including once by Patrick during the International Day of Peace Fair at the Motherhouse in September 2011. (Just to get the tune, you can listen to a not-very-good-quality video of that on YouTube; just CLICK HERE to see it.).
Patrick’s second song is titled “The Power of Peace.” Here are the lyrics:
We live in this world here together
in a time of concern for us all.
And so many sad faces in so many places
may cause our hearts to stall.
Days are coming for all mankind
when hate is banished and war shall cease.
All the people on earth will find
the gift of love in the power of peace.
With violence and hatred abundant
we must carefully watch where we tread.
But the hope for all people is that we might unify.
Peace to all instead. (Chorus)
Both offer powerful messages — and “A Little Piece of the Peace” has such a catchy tune that you might even find yourself whistling it.
If there are other peace activities or events that you’d like to suggest — or if you would be interested in joining the Year of Peace Committee to help spread the message — we’d love to hear from you. Sister Jean Rosemarynoski can give you more information and answer any questions you have; contact her at 785/243-2113, ext. 1225, or email@example.com.
January 4, 2013 by Sarah
Recently members the Year of Peace Committee
, asked ourselves, “Should we have yet another Year of Peace? What will one more year accomplish?” About 3½ years ago our committee came together to launch the first Year of Peace, complete with a Declaration of the Year of Peace by our mayor, signs for business windows, T-shirts, a booth at the Fallfest and much more! We have kept the invitation to personal and communal peacemaking before the eyes of the community in these columns in the Blade-Empire, the annual Civility Pledge drive, a monthly KNCKradio spot, National Night Out, a film series and book studies, among other means of deepening our understanding of what it means to be a people of peace.
So that leaves us with the real question: Are we finished? Have we done it?
The Year of Peace Committee has been heartened by both the desire of other communities to model their work for civil discourse and nonviolence on Concordia’s, and also by the seeming growth of our own community into a friendlier, community-minded city. Yet, it seems that there is always room for improvement. Peace is greater than the absence of violence, though we’ll never come to fulfillment without conversion of hearts through active nonviolence. Growth in love has no limits. Thus, we are launching yet another Year of Peace!
Last year’s theme was “Year of Peace: Bringing People Together,” a focus on the development of “social capital” as a means to peace in our community.
We are aware that many people have made significant, though sometimes hidden, contributions to the community helping to enlarge the presence of peace among us. For the 2013 Year of Peace, then, our theme will be “Recognizing Unsung Heroes of Peace.”
There are many among us who, through selfless service, build the culture of peace in our neighborhoods, institutions and businesses. This year we will honor them in many of our Year of Peace columns as a way to inspire each of us to use our gifts for a culture of peace and the common good.
And as the year begins, we are once again launching our annual Civility Pledge drive. Pledge sheets will be available to renew your pledge — or make it for the first time — in the places where they have been available before, such as the Frank Carlson Library and Neighbor to Neighbor, 103 E. 6th St.
Or, if you prefer, CLICK HERE for a PDF you can download, print out and sign. Then mail it to Bob Steimel, P.O. Box 213, Concordia KS 66901. (Or drop it off to Bob at the Century 21 office downtown.)
The deadline for signing the 2013 pledge is March 29.
Signing the pledge makes a difference. A public commitment reminds me that I have promised to interact with all others with respect, and allows others to call me to be my best self, whether it is in a public situation, my place of work, or the privacy of my own home.
This is not only personally transformative, but models a path of interpersonal reverence inviting the whole community to rise to a higher level of communication. Let us be as leavening in the loaf of our world by spreading the peace among ourselves in Concordia, and beyond.
— Sister Janet Lander is on the staff of Manna House of Prayer and is a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.