Czech All Out

              This
spring break, many of my friends were leaving Kansas to go to Colorado, Mexico,
or Florida. I, however, was headed to Cuba. Yes, Cuba—Cuba, Kansas. Growing up
in my hometown is definitely much more of a blessing than a curse. Ironically
enough, Cuba is only about 20 miles away from Washington and is in the Republic
(County, that is). I do live a mile away from Cuba, but there will never be a
community that is closer to my heart. Cuba was founded by predominantly Czech immigrants. Cuba, Kansas is a small community of only
150 people.  We may be small, but we are mighty. A sign reading “Czech Us Out” greets the travelers of 36 highway as they pass.  Cuba has been featured twice in
National Geographic and once on CBS Sunday Morning. I stole my first piece of bubble
gum from The Cuba Cash Store, and I shortly after learned that thievery was
wrong (after my mother found out, I personally paid the store owner and
admitted my fault). I established a faith in God at the Cuba Presbyterian Church.
I was developed into a man in Cuba, Kansas.
Every year the community of Cuba,
comes together to celebrate the Cuba Rock-a-thon. Despite the name, the
Rock-a-thon is not the largest Rock and Roll festival in North Central Kansas.
Forty year ago, the Rock-a-thon began in the local laundry mat with a single
rocking chair. The Rock-a-thon has raised over $547,000 for community
improvements for Cuba. For a week, the Rock-a-thon provides meals,
informational and comical entertainment, community cooperation, and 318 hours
of continuous chair rocking. Whether one is five years old or 105, members of
the community always look forward to rocking in those sacred chairs. Although,
it’s not the rocking in the chairs that everybody gets so excited about annually.
The rocking is just a symbol and a small part of the tradition of devotion and
love for the community.
              During
this year’s Rock-a-thon, I definitely gained a greater appreciation for my
community. The thing about Cuba, though, is that we aren’t anything special. Much
like any great community, it’s not the buildings, great streets, or job
opportunity that make Cuba amazing, but it’s the people. We are just a
community who cares. If it wasn’t for the support through the community, I can
firmly say that I would have never even considered running for state office. Rural
communities provide valuable experiences that are unique from urban areas.
              During my
travel to South Africa, one of the most valuable pieces of information I took
away occurred while visiting the Kliptown Youth Project. Kliptown is a small
village outside of Johannesburg and is one of the most poverty stricken areas
of South Africa. Even though they may not have a lot and even struggle to
obtain the bare essentials, they urged the 75 American State FFA Officers to
not feel sorry for them. They have each other, and that is stronger than any
monetary or gift donation that can be given. Finally, they insisted that instead
of returning to Kliptown to assist their development that we should return home
and impact our communities first.

We all come from a community—a
community that cares about us and has molded us into who we are today.  Take time to identify those individuals in your life. If you want to see what your future holds, look at your five closest
friends—your community. If those individuals have high integrity, are
successful, and caring, then you are more likely to have those qualities. However,
if those people are unmotivated, inconsiderate, and selfish, I encourage you to
consider some challenging decisions in your life. More than anything, provide
that community for others. I will never be able to have the impact on Cuba that
it’s had on me, but I will sure give it my best effort. Whether your community
is in rural Kansas, New York City, or just your closest friends, identify those individuals and thank them. Finally, spend purposeful time strengthening and “Czeching out” your community.