I just got back from Host Saskatchewan 2015, the annual Tourism Saskatchewan conference. This year’s discussions were exciting and thought-provoking. One of the topics we talked about was community and its importance to life and the tourism experience in Saskatchewan. Living and doing business in a small town brings that importance home.

After I returned from the conference, I looked for a picture I have somewhere of Marj Boyer sitting in her customary seat in front of the rock wall at the Star. I couldn’t find it, but found a portrait of her on Google.

For some time we fed Marj twice a day: a bowl of soup at lunch and a supper made just for her, depending on what she wanted to eat. She always sat at table 4, the one closest to the kitchen, because that was the warmest seat in the house. She would visit with staff, and the cook would come out and ask her what she wanted to eat. When she was no longer able to come to the restaurant, we would cater a family meal to the Lodge on occasion.

Marj taught me a lot about Maple Creek, and talked about the way of life this community is built on. She would bring in envelopes of photos of Maple Creek “in the old days.” She was kind, generous and lively, and we all enjoyed her company.

 “Did you know these stones came from the Boyer ranch in the Hills?” she would often ask me. I’d smile and nod, and think about the connections to community and heritage this restaurant has given me.

Last Sunday night, a couple with their two children came in, as they do fairly regularly. We have watched these kids grow up into fine young people, and have shared little jokes with them over time. Breanna, our busser, has not had much opportunity to know them, but got right into the spirit of our shared story with this family. At the end of the meal, the dad told me that the food is always good at the Star, but that evening they had “the best experience” they had ever had.

I thought about that later that night, and have learned from his comment. It is through community, connection, and shared stories that we have an impact on others’ lives. We need to always remember that.

Tourism Saskatchewan’s new marketing campaign talks about connections, community and time and space to be, not do. I believe we are in the business of giving people a place to be, to share stories and make new ones.

Even with all the challenges keeping a business in a small town carries, doing business in a small town is a gift, because of the connections people like Marj bring to us. We are truly blessed.