It’s no secret that life here in Tennessee is pretty good. Blessed with some of the most beautiful and diverse natural landscapes in the world, we don’t have to look far to see God’s creation in its full splendor. From Memphis to Mountain City, the terrain changes in such dramatic ways, creating a truly unique place all along the way. Man has added to that natural beauty by harnessing the power of our rivers and building dams that save our homes and farms from destructive flooding, all the while creating some the finest lakes in the U.S.
We are also blessed with favorable economic conditions. Unlike many other states, Tennessee is not overly reliant upon just one industry or economic sector, meaning jobs remain available, and our population continues to grow. By virtue of our location and our borders, a day’s drive or a short flight can get us to just about anywhere in the country. That is great for business and makes it easy for those of us with family in other places to stay connected. Even a simple task like driving to the grocery store is more pleasant here, thanks to our good roads.
Our quality of life is good, too. Compared to the rest of the world, our standard of living is so high — enviable in fact — that nearly every Tennessean belongs in the “1 percent” — regardless of what you own or how much is in your bank account. Yes, life here is pretty good.
Does your life have its challenges, though? Absolutely! In no way do I intend through these words to minimize or trivialize the real problems we all have to deal with in this life. Many of you reading this column may be dealing with the loss of a loved one, struggling with serious illness, grieving the loss of a relationship or any of a host of serious, stressful and significant challenges.
But as you ponder your New Year’s resolutions, I challenge you to take a hard look at your own sense of gratitude for the blessings you enjoy while living in this wonderful place. They are many, I assure you. Does your attitude reflect a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude?
I am especially grateful this year for some particular men and women who work thanklessly to power my modern lifestyle. Electricity is an essential part of my life — from waking me up in the morning, toasting my bread, charging my cell phone, lighting my desk, keeping me warm, powering the Internet, washing my clothes and everything in between. Fans of the NBC television show “Revolution” might have a more vivid picture of how quickly life would change without a continuous supply of electricity.
I have written in my column before about the thousands of individual pieces of equipment and technology required to keep the lights on, and the cost and effort required to do so is truly amazing. But as I ponder gratitude, my attention seems to focus on the human beings who actually perform this crucial work. Most specifically, I am thankful for the electric utility linemen.
These are the people who are required to do everything we teach our kids not to do. Don’t stick your fingers in the socket because the 120 volts of power will shock you. Linemen grab bare wires with tens of thousands of volts of electricity flowing through them. Don’t climb that tree because you might fall out. Climbing a bare pole is a prerequisite before you even begin to learn to become a lineman. Don’t hold metal objects outside in a lighting storm. Bad storms are the times when power is most likely to go out; guess who has to go out to fix it? Don’t drive on icy roads. Ice storms, the most damaging weather event for an electric utility, require hundreds of vehicles to drive in inclement weather to locate and repair trouble.
Simply put, linemen risk their lives every single day so we can have the luxury of not even noticing the work they do. They spend years learning how to perform a physically difficult and complicated job. Linemen do their jobs in the middle of the night, for long hours, in the hot and the cold, and do it tirelessly because they want you to be comfortable and enjoy your service. They deserve our support and our gratitude for a job well done.