I had a conversation the other day with a local guy who’s in business. He’s a K-State grad, but he’s mostly stayed away from campus organizations since he came back to town several years ago.
“I think I’m going to bring a plate of cookies up to my old fraternity,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s OK or not, but I just want to do it, to let them know that we are glad they’re here.”
Yes, sir. I told him. It’s OK.
In fact, I think more of us ought to do that.
Students are pouring back into town right now. The population is about to nearly double. Classes start Monday. We are, once again, a college town.
It’s easy to take that for granted, since it has happened every year for a century and a half. It is highly likely to happen again next year, and the year after that, and every year until most of us are dead.
But that’s not guaranteed, and anyway, that’s not the point.
The point is that the 20,000 young people who are suddenly in line at Dillons or Walmart, or are taking all the parking places in City Park, or whatever, are human beings away from home, starting their lives as adults.
A lot of them are probably lonely. Nearly all of them are anxious, on one level or another. They wonder who they are, and they wonder if they’ll succeed — by one standard or another — and they wonder if the world around them even cares.
They might not look like it. They walk around staring at their phones, maybe with headphones on, and you probably think all they care about is Instagram and Snapchat, or maybe Fortnite.
But they do care, and it makes a difference how you treat them. Some of them might even choose to come back here to raise a family, or start a business, or eventually retire.
That doesn’t mean you should circle around them like sharks if you’re in business, or if you’re the Chamber of Commerce. They’re human beings. You also don’t have to bring them a pan of brownies. But you can treat them with kindness, and you can welcome them in a thousand little ways.
Actually, we’re pretty good at that here in Manhattan. That’s why we are consistently ranked as one of the best college towns in America on a variety of scales that have anything to do with the relationship between the college and the community.
It starts with just welcoming all those young people here. We hope you’ll continue to go out of your way to do that.
— Seaton is publisher and editor in chief.