A welcome recurring theme at Thursday’s economic development forum in Marion was the need to bury once and for all the rivalries between neighbors that have divided the county for much of its history.
A second theme complemented that one: doing everything we can to keep or bring back our young adults by creating economic opportunities they will find enticing and rewarding.
The two are complementary because closely-held rivalries of my generation and others just aren’t as intense among our youth.
That’s not to say that, for example, Hillsboro and Marion kids don’t ramp it up a notch when they get after it in competition — there’s still some pride to be found in claiming bragging rights, just as there is in collegiate competition between KU and K-State.
It’s been young families moving into the county, unfamiliar with past rivalries when they arrive and not too quick to buy into them, that have helped rivalries to mellow in recent years. Once upon a time, friendships among junior high and high school students were isolated to those in their own schools. Today, students from across the county often are teammates for club sports outside of school and in summer leagues, developing close friendships that leave rivalry where it should be, on playing fields and courts. Social media brings people from different communities together daily.
Rivalries that get in the way of collaboration and progress live on primarily in generations such as mine that grew up with and nurtured them. Honestly, all I liked about Hillsboro in the early 1970s were the girls at Hillsboro High School. I wasn’t actively taught to dislike Hillsboro, I just learned by living.
Decades living away from Marion allowed me to shed those ridiculous feelings, and I don’t look at Hillsboro or any other towns as rivals to mine. They’re just different neighborhoods of the same community as far as I’m concerned, and the folks living there, whether I’ve met them or not, are my neighbors.
If that sounds a little like Fred Rogers singing “Please won’t you be my neighbor,” remember that I spent a quarter-century working with youngsters. And Fred was right. Everyone was his neighbor.
The next time you’re about to think or say something that would add fuel to old, tired rivalries, ask what your neighbor Fred Rogers would do. Yes, it sounds a bit silly, a bit simplistic, maybe even naïve. But really, it should be that simple, shouldn’t it? It’s only complicated when we choose to make it that way.
— david colburn