A great good place

Every week, I go to work at a great place. In fact, it’s a Great Good Place. A Third Place,

Mark Purdy

Mark Purdy is a service desk employee at the YWCA Gettysburg & Adams County.


In his book, “The Great Good Place,” author Ray Oldenburg says that a “third place” is a place where people can gather, and put aside concerns of work and home. A third place can be a coffee shop, a bistro, a bar, a barbershop, or any number of places where we find good company and a welcoming atmosphere. It’s a third place because it’s not 1) home or 2) work. (The two places where the majority of our lives are spent.)

My part-time role at the membership desk of the YWCA of Gettysburg and Adams County provides me a front-row view of a truly marvelous third place. Like great art or great music (or a great bar for that matter) a Great Good Place is hard to precisely define — you just know it when you see it. You might even feel it. The YW is such a place. The reasons are many.

The demographic range at the YWCA is vast, from young children coming for daycare to senior citizens arriving to use the pool or the fitness center. You simply won’t find a more culturally or racially diverse clientele at any other area business. Everybody belongs, everybody feels welcome, everybody’s got a reason for making this their third place — and we also share those reasons, no matter who we are or how we got through the door.

There are serious workout hawks arriving at all hours, as well as the guy next door who knows he’ll feel better if he can knock out a mile or two on the treadmill. There are swimming classes, a swim team, all varieties of Zumba or yoga. Bootcamp!

Some folks arrive as early as 4:30 a.m., others need a gently reminder at closing time. There are community meetings and various programs. Bluegrass music. Tae Kwon Do. Pickleball. Floor hockey. Noontime basketball. 5K races.

I’m leaving things out.

The YWCA structure itself takes a daily pounding — and that’s a beautiful thing. The wear and tear at this venerable building is due to nearly constant traffic, in and out, year round. It gets a bit chaotic at times, even a bit loud, but any cacophony is the result of enthusiasm, not dissatisfaction.

Perhaps best of all, there is great spirit at the YWCA. Old friends, new friends, a place where it doesn’t take long to feel at home. Connections occur naturally; we all have so much in common. Heck, you might just find the kind of human interaction that seems to be in short supply of late. In his introduction, Oldenburg states that “The only predictable social consequence of technological advancement is that (we) will grow ever more apart from each other.”

Let’s not let that happen. Looking for a Great Good Place? We’ve got one.


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