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Letters to the Editor

The kindness of strangers

I’m writing for two reasons: to extend my gratitude to those in Creston who helped make a stranger feel welcome and to track down the couple who took me into their home for a few hours.

A recent trip had me waiting for the train in Creston on a Sunday morning. I learned about the train delay after having already left Churdan, which meant I was to wait in Creston for nearly five hours in what was promising to be a pretty hot morning. The building, I thought was the Amtrak station, was all locked up. No way to get in and all the benches were on the sunny side of the building.

After walking a few blocks in the hot sun with three pieces of luggage in tow, I found a shady spot to sit for a bit, but knew it wasn’t going to be long before the sun took it over. I was dreading what was ahead as the forecast suggested it could reach the 90s by mid-morning.  

I saw a gentleman on his morning walk and asked him if he had any ideas of places where I could get out of the heat. “Not really,” he said “nothing is open on Sundays.” 

I headed to a nearby gas station. Along the way, I noticed another gentleman drive by, look at me, keep driving and then turn around and stop on a patch of dirt across the street. I heard a faint “excuse me, ma’am ... ” but I didn’t know what to expect. He went on to yell across the road, “Are you waiting for the Amtrak train?” 

He said he’d seen me sitting outside and when he saw me again, he wanted to stop to tell me where I could find the old train depot, where there was actually a place to go inside. I was so grateful that he literally went out of his way for this act of kindness.  

In the gas station, I had a brief chat with the young woman behind the counter about the train delay, got a cup of coffee and told her I was headed for the old depot the young man told me about. She was kind enough to offer that I could go back there whenever I needed some respite from the heat. 

Within 15 minutes of getting to the old depot, the older gentleman I met on his walk showed up. Turns out, when he got home and told his wife about our interaction she immediately said, “Go back and get her!” So he set out to find me.  

When I wasn’t where he’d first seen me, he went to the gas station and asked if they’d seen someone who looked lost. The woman behind the counter told him where I headed. He and his wife opened up their home, we had a great conversation, they taught me about the history of Creston and the area – including the story behind the beautiful gandy dancers sculpture by the very talented young welder/artist Alissa Weinkoetz – gave me a jar of homemade strawberry jam, and took me back to the train depot a couple of hours later.  

Anthony Bourdain opened up his show about West Virginia with his personal revelation that rural America isn’t the monolith some paint it to be. He used a few curse words to express himself. I’ll keep mine clean.  

I’m lucky. I work with family farmers and fishermen, who mostly live in rural America. I choose train travel because, despite the delays, it takes me to their communities and gives me experiences no flight can – like the one in Creston. The more I travel, the more convinced I am that prejudice is implanted in our society by those who benefit from keeping us divided, apart and at war with each other.  

I’m grateful for these opportunities for an upfront and personal experience with the humanity shown toward someone who looks nothing like anyone else who lives in Creston.

Thank you, Creston – especially the folks who made me feel so welcomed on that hot Sunday morning in July and for replenishing my faith in humanity. 

Finally, I’m hoping you can do me one more favor: help me reach the couple that took me in for those few hours. I’m afraid I seem to have lost the paper with their address. I know they read this paper (they sent me home with a few back issues), so I’m hoping they’ll read this and get in touch with me. I promised them some seafood from the coast and I’d love to make good on my promise. 

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