A restaurant is more than a restaurant in a small community.

I grew up just outside a small town, and the heartbeat of that small town was the restaurant (or cafe, if you prefer calling it that). Yes, it served some great food, but perhaps more importantly it served friendship.

It was the place that the local folks, farmers and retirees, business people and kids would gather. It was a table or counter filled with friends and neighbors every morning having coffee and talking politics and farm prices, the weather and whatever else might be in the local news. It was the community gathering place, the 20th (and now 21st) century version of the town square.

And so when I read in the Yankton Press and Dakotan that fire had gutted the Open Door Restaurant in Menno earlier this week, it was a particular twinge I felt in my heart. The Open Door, much like the small town restaurant I grew up with, was an important part of that community. A community gathering place and host for a Senior Meals program.

I don't know those folks in Menno, and yet of course I do. And if you grew up in a rural area or a small town, you know them, too. And you know they're hurting right now.

But having live in South Dakota for over four decades now, and all over the state, I know they'll not only recover, but thrive! That's who we are, that's what we do. We take a gut punch, drop to a knee, then get up and get on with what we need to do.

To all you folks in Menno, there's a whole lot of us pulling for you! And bless all you firefighters that came to put out the blaze.

Oh, and after reading the story, you can bet it won't be too long and I'm going to want to stop in Menno and have a cup of hot coffee and warm conversation.

The Yankton Press and Dakotan Contributed To This Article

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