Morris: Heavenly Indiana

May 13, 2019

by Leo Morris

It’s amazing how so-called professional journalists can report the bare facts and somehow miss the bigger story right in front of them.

Here is the news report from KOB-4 out of Albuquerque, N.M.:

Two girls in Roswell had a plan to get a message to their grandparents in Heaven. Shayla and Haylie Chaves wrote a letter, put it in a sealed bag and tied it to a balloon. The letter eventually landed in a woman’s garden in Indiana.

The woman who received the letter wrote the girls. Now, they plan to pay it forward. “It’s very heart-touching that she would actually take the time to send us a letter back, and we plan to do something special for her in return,” said the girls’ mother, Sheri Chaves.

Can you begin to fathom the astonishing but unacknowledged aspect of that story?

No, not the part about mysterious objects in the sky around Roswell, N.M., although that deserves at least a look from the conspiracy theorists, and there’s probably a cable movie in there somewhere. I mean the part about the balloon starting out for Heaven and ending up in Indiana. Come on! Heaven? Indiana? Certainly, the balloon could have gone horribly off course. But what if it ended up exactly where it was supposed to be?

Please don’t go into stone-the-blasphemer mode. I’m speaking metaphorically, as in “heaven on earth,” you know, the kind of place where nice old ladies in gardens will stop whatever they do in gardens long enough to write a letter to two young strangers halfway across the country.

Unfortunately, not everyone thinks so highly of Indiana. Sometimes, I wonder if even Gov. Eric Holcomb likes the state he leads.

He gave the commencement address at Ball State University recently and implored students to stay in Indiana. He told the graduates a Ball State diploma gives them “a fantastic head start” on their careers but added, “Don’t run too far because Indiana needs you and Indiana wants every single one of you,” including teachers, architects, nurses, artists, entrepreneurs and broadcasters.

If you think you live in a nice place, it seems to me, you won’t feel as if you have to beg people to stay there. Oh, you might remind them of what a good place the state is, in case it slipped their minds, but you wouldn’t automatically assume they are heading for the border before the ink dries on their diplomas.

Some of our communities go further than begging, offering college students everything from money to mortgage help if they commit to staying a certain amount of time here after graduation. What kind of positive contribution to a state will be made by people who had to be bribed just to live there?

Fort Wayne a few years ago even succumbed to the preachings of “urban economist” Richard Florida, who claimed that, to thrive, communities had to attract the “creative class,” those refined types who, unlike plumbers, janitors and construction workers, could take the city to a more rarefied plane. What we were supposed to do was provide trendy restaurants, music hot spots and other diversions with which our saviors could amuse themselves in their idle hours.

Not even enough to keep the right sort of people here. We must also attract the right sort. How drearily cosmopolitan.

I was tempted, briefly, to throw the governor an encouraging shout-out: “Here I am, sir! I am a Ball State graduate, and I will gladly stay here and help out my state.”

But I fear I am not the right sort. As a retired geezer long past his use-by date, I’m sure I don’t contribute to what the governor might define as a vibrant economy. And I wouldn’t set foot in a trendy restaurant on a bet.

The state has even codified its disdain for me. Did you know that the recently passed hate-crimes law does not include age as a protected class that it is wrong to treat with bias?

“Sexual orientation” and “gender identity” for some reason have gotten all the press. Four Notre Dame seniors recently wrote an op-ed for the Indianapolis Star declaring the state unfit to live in because failing to specifically list those two groups as potential “biased-crime” victims violates the principle that “all people should feel safe in their own identify.”

Not a whit of concern, not even a crocodile tear shed, for those of us with identities no less fragile for having been so long in the making, especially those of us who occasionally feel like 16 and wish to be treated accordingly. If I think I’m a teenager, who has the right to say differently?

Perhaps we old fogies should join with others the state wants neither to keep nor attract, a “not the right sort” coalition to remind everybody else that before attractive states can lure people, people have to create attractive states. We could start our own Twitter account and Facebook page.

In the meantime, you might find us out in the garden, looking for balloons sent to Heaven and prepared to respond in a nice way. We might feel neglected from time to time, but we try not to hold a grudge.

Leo Morris, columnist for The Indiana Policy Review, is winner of the Hoosier Press Association’s award for Best Editorial Writer. Morris, as opinion editor of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, was named a finalist in editorial writing by the Pulitzer Prize committee. Contact him at


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