The people of my home state never cease to amaze me.
From my first day home after moving back from California, to a February afternoon on a nondescript dirt road, the people of Iowa have wasted few chances to prove that “Iowa nice” is more than a concept — it’s a life choice.
Upon returning from my nine-year sentence on the West Coast, I had just returned the U-Haul I’d spent the previous four days driving when I stopped at a Casey’s. I was in Iowa, after all.
After exiting my vehicle but before going in for a couple slices of one of the best pizzas in the world, I noticed an elderly woman making her way across the parking lot. A group of four or five teenage boys was milling around the front of the store, so I slowed down to see how the situation played out.
As the woman approached the store entrance, the boys not only acknowledged her presence with nods to each other, they also lowered their voices. When the woman was a few steps from the door, the boys separated to give her a clear path and one held open the door, saying, “Here you go, ma’am.”
Those were manners. Not only was it great to watch, but the fact that these good manners made such an impression on me sadly indicated I had become used to not seeing them practiced as much where I used to live.
In the spring of 2015, a video of state trooper Tracy Bohlen performing CPR on a motorist in the middle of Interstate 80 went viral. Jane McCurdy, a registered nurse, helped the man’s 15-year-old son to her car, gave him a ride to the hospital and waited with him at the hospital until the rest of the family could get to the hospital from Oklahoma. McCurdy also went to the pharmacy for them and helped them get settled in a hotel.
In the video, McCurdy says she never went into nursing to make a million, only to make a difference. Speaking about McCurdy’s helpfulness, Bohlen said, “That’s who we are. That’s Iowa.”
At the end of February, I was parked along a dirt road on my way to a story interview. It was the third one I had done in succession, and since I had “ballparked” my arrival time, I pulled over for a few minutes when I noticed I was going to be much earlier than I intended.
A strange person in a strange vehicle alongside a dirt road triggered yet another shining example of “Iowa nice,” and I was the recipient. A young kid in a pickup pulled up next to my vehicle, and he rolled down the passenger-side window. As I did the same with my driver-side window he asked me, “Do you need help with anything?”
Granted, at my age the term “young kid” could apply to anyone ages 16-40, but this boy most likely had not seen his 20th birthday and did not know who was in the vehicle or what his or her intentions might be.
Again, I don’t exactly come across as imposing in my Chevy HHR, but this kid took a chance and offered his help, whatever that may have required.
That’s Iowa, and I’m glad that’s who we are.