As you might imagine, when you write a regular column like this one, it is very tempting to make reference to the events that will be happening when the magazine arrives in your mailbox. As a sports fan, I had visions of March Madness themes and maybe even a word or two about fair play and the importance of competition. Then, my alma mater won one of the most exciting basketball games I’ve ever seen and became the first team in the country to punch its ticket to the big dance (if you’re a basketball fan, you should watch the replay of the Belmont vs. Murray State Ohio Valley Conference Tournament championship game; it was fantastic). There was no doubt that college basketball was going to be the topic of this article — someway, somehow.
But then a chance conversation changed my plan. Over the past year and a half, I have become aquatinted with two brothers who own a business together. Originally from Israel, they came to Tennessee following the American dream. Finding a niche, they started a company that provides services to small, sole proprietors, and the brothers have done very well. Needing to discuss an important issue, I tried to set up a meeting, and one of the brothers informed me that they were unavailable. After asking why, I was told that one of the brothers was returning to Israel for two weeks so he could vote. Let that sink in for a moment. It is 6,391 miles from Nashville to Tel Aviv.
A quick check of plane tickets and I’m guessing a roundtrip probably costs $1,250. I admire the dedication my friend Guy demonstrated. He is committed to his home here in Tennessee, creating jobs and improving the lives of his employees. But he is also committed to his homeland, committing his time and treasure to undertake his most basic civic responsibility.
I’ve written in this column before about my opinions on the importance of voting, but Guy’s story by itself says so much more than I could write. And I hope you will remember it, too, the next time it becomes too inconvenient to make it to the polling place just a couple of miles down the road.
As Guy’s story caused me to think about the sacrifices that I do or don’t make for my community, it did make me grateful that I am surrounded by people who do care about more than just themselves. I’m thankful for my relatives, my church family and my neighbors who all, in their own ways, walk the walk when it comes to their dedication to others. I’m also fortunate to be a member of an electric cooperative whose very existence is owed to the concept of neighbors helping each other. While the early days of rural electrification may now be generations behind us, it doesn’t hurt to reflect now and again on what was an amazing story of collective self-reliance and community unity.
In the community where you live, there was a time when no businessman would have found it important enough to build the infrastructure needed to provide electricity. And if you were an investor in that businessman’s company, you would have agreed. But rural communities were not willing to stand to the side and live in the dark as cities progressed toward the modern age. So farmers across the country banded together, and electric cooperatives were born — not so they could build themselves, but so they could build their communities.
So while we may take for granted the miracle that is electric power most of the time these days, we electric cooperative members are fortunate that our community has a co-op. Your co-op is not just a supplier of electrons; it is committed to the health and prosperity of your community. Those aren’t just fancy words; they reflect the bedrock reason your cooperative exists. The co-op cares about more than just itself.
Voting in an election was important enough to Guy that he literally circled the globe to fulfill his responsibility. My question to you is this: What is that important to you? What sacrifices are you willing to make to fulfill your most basic responsibilities to family and community? I hope your own answer is one you can be proud of.