Click your heels 3 times and say . . .
At age 26, Clark Kroupa — one of Marion High School’s brighter recent graduates — is wise beyond his years.
Like many Americans emerging from a yearlong cocoon woven by a bat virus that wafted its way here from overseas, he’s realized you don’t have to live in a big city to have a big-time job. And you can handle your big-time job and what you truly love doing all at the same time.
Modern technology, with which many people have become overly acquainted during the pandemic, allows people to work from home, and home can be anywhere you want — including Marion County, Kansas. Best of all, when you’re working from home, you can do what you want, not just what you have to do to stay ahead.
That may not be great news for real estate agents hawking office space in urban centers or hotels and airlines making fortunes off conventions and seminars. But it’s great news for places like our home county.
No, you can’t do your grocery shopping at 3 a.m. If you need premium gas, you may have only one place to go. There’s rarely sushi at the deli counter — which, personally, some of us don’t miss. But you rarely find Caffeine Free Diet Dr Pepper, and you can’t always choose among multiple cuisines at multiple drive-thrus. You’re often lucky if you can find any restaurant open some days of the week and some hours of the day.
But it’s home. And home is where the heart is. It’s also where, despite all our worries about meth addicts and crime sprees, most people don’t lock their cars or their front doors. Drivers will actually stop for you if you take even one false step toward crossing a street, and the person giving you something you fear — like a driver’s license exam when you’re in your 90s — is someone you know and trust, who will make the experience as painless as possible.
When dozens of people turn out on Main St. to wave at members of a softball team heading off to their first-ever state tournament, even when they know not a single one of the players, you know you’re living someplace special — someplace that cares.
Here, you can start or work in a business you love, even if it won’t make you a fortune, even if it’s only an avocation in retirement.
It may not be the future that Marion County’s original settlers envisioned for this place, but it appears to be the future that awaits us — crafting our county to appeal to telecommuters, semi-retirees, and free spirits who want to get back to their roots, explore their creativity, or not allow their life to be frittered away by the hurly-burly detail of city life.
The challenge we as a community face is how to embrace this opportunity and create more opportunities for more Clark Kroupas to return home or to begin regarding Marion County as the home they always wished they had.
As we embark on yet another season of local politicking, instead of constantly raising questions about mill levies and various public officials you do or don’t want to see sent packing, perhaps we need to ask our candidates what their vision of Marion County’s future is and how they hope to help us get there.
Are we to become a cheap bedroom or an industrial mecca, attracting a population that may bring with it a host of problems, or are we going to cater to people who love what we already appreciate?
We don’t want to turn into a leadership retirement community, of course, with everyone so burned out by past service that the idea of additional service is oppressive. But there can be a happy medium, particularly with retirement coming at younger and younger ages for more and more Americans.
We wish we had the answers to what the county could do to increase its appeal to such people, but we’re confident that our readers are at least as bright as we are and that all of us, working together, can begin to make this county a place to which its natives will want to return and invest in making life even better.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified June 2, 2021