Train travel was once king across the country; Kansas City sits in the center of the country at a literal “crossroads” for travel and commerce. Volume increased steadily through the years and during WWII an estimated one million train travelers moved through this lofty space; many of them were soldiers headed off to war, while fortunate others were returning home to joyous welcomes and new post-war lives in pursuit of the American Dream. Each person carried a story of this place with them on their personal journey.
Like many grand places of the past, changes in travel resulted in seismic shifts from what came before. These changes required a renaissance of both place and purpose, in order to remain relevant for the present and useful for the future. Union Station in Kansas City still houses the Amtrak train terminal in one corner, but has drawn on what came before to become a place “where science, culture and entrepreneurship” come together in a vibrant civic center. While those elements could converge somewhere else, they gain purpose from what came before, by infusing the ideas and energy of today with the experiences of the past.
As life progresses, we all need to update who we are and evolve our organizations to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Experiences of the past can vitalize those efforts, if we’ll only take a closer look and imagine what came before. That’s very different than being stuck in the past, because train stations aren’t what they once were; instead, it’s a matter of appreciating and understanding how that past has positioned us for the journey ahead.
When your travels bring you to a magnificent place, in addition to admiring the stunning architecture, also take a moment to appreciate the vision that created it; then imagine how what came before brought you there.