As luck would have call it — of all the famous States in my own list — I am here in Kansas State. The first time I heard about it, I thought of cowboys, a rural area and a vast land full of people living in RV’s like what I saw in Hollywood movies. I was partly correct, cowboys were real but instead of wearing their usual hat — they’re wearing KC Royals or Chiefs Cap to support their favourite team. But no more horses for them this time. It is less crowded and houses are either within or outside the city boundaries. Vast lands are usually full of cars with people doing tailgating before a baseball or football game starts.
The place is best known for so many things. BBQ is one — they have more than a hundred restaurants to choose from. Although I haven’t had the chance to dine in all of them, I can say they have a distinct BBQ taste. Trust me I am an expert. Sports is also one of the things they’re known for, especially that the Royals won the World Series or Wizard of Oz or even Superman’s childhood place Smallville. From what I have experienced, they should be known for their people who are friendly, respectful and polite. I can say I feel welcomed here and let me tell you why:
Annual balloon festival in Kansas
“How are you?” is a common question/greeting
Greetings like hi, hello, good day or good morning/afternoon/evening is a normal conversation starter — for me. It was different here because most of the people I talk would ask me “How are you?” The first time I was asked, I thought of “Do I know this person? Are we close? Should I answer?”. As I experienced it everyday, I realized it’s not just a greeting or an opening statement, it is more of a sincerity of knowing my current state. Now I am doing the same thing and I wonder what will be the reaction of my fellow Filipinos if I Will carry the kind habit with me back home.
Opening and holding doors
I first noticed this golden trait from our host who frequently does it not just for us but for everyone. I thought they are just naturally courteous and the trait may not reflect to most of the people. One time we were about to enter a steakhouse and I intentionally stayed outside to take a picture of the facade. I was about to walk inside and I saw a lady holding the door — waiting for me to come in. This could be an isolated case of courtesy again, I thought to myself, but for 30 days straight, I have noticed most of the people here do the same thing in different places whether in a hotel, grocery, small stores, restaurants, pubs, pet stores and all the places that had doors!. I usually open and hold the doors to people I know and seldom to people I don’t. But now, I am more conscious of others. I’ve seen how a simple act of kindness can make someone's life a little better.
I don’t usually do eye contact with a stranger but whenI find myself doing it, I feel awkward and embarrassed. I had this experience during my first day here when we went to a baseball museum and I had an eye contact with a lady in her 30’s — I immediately looked away but when I looked back she was still looking at me — she was smiling. The next day we went to a sports bar to watch a Royal's Game, but before I could enter the bar I had an eye contact with a man and he immediately flashed a smile. It continued in different places like downtown streets, grocery store, parks, offices and the list just goes on. I haven’t felt pleasant having an eye contact with a stranger before. I know it’s weird — but here, I just feel connected.
Kansas has reminded me that small acts do matter —they make life more colourful. It is not a perfect place, but it gave me a perfect meaning of what it means to have genuine connection with people. It has not just exceeded my expectation, but it has also top my famous list of States.