October is as bitter as it is sweet, as poignant as it is
There’s the invigorating uplift to body and soul that
comes from balmy, blue-sky days and crisp, starry nights. There’s also the
aching beauty that foreshadows decline: trees ablaze in a final
curtain-call, summer’s birds taking wing to distant lands.
There are tart apples whose crunch announces another
growing season done. And of course there’s the enveloping tang of woodsmoke,
warming while warning of winter on-the-way.
Change is in the air. Get ready!
So humankind for millennia has closely watched nature’s
rhythms and heeded nature’s call, every autumn bringing in the harvest and
firming up the foundations ahead of the relentless approach of winter. It’s
not surprising that “the harvest” has been celebrated in song and story for
centuries, in part because it involves gathering the food that sustains us,
but also because such gathering almost always involves the labor of many
hands. Many cooperative hands.
The example of the harvest embodies both how, and why,
cooperatives work: everyone shares in the effort, and everyone benefits from
the result. So it’s only natural then that October for decades has been
celebrated as Cooperative Month.
And this year, the October celebration is even more
expansive, since 2012 is being celebrated worldwide as the International
Year of Cooperatives. Over a billion people across the globe are members of
at least one self-help business, which every day enables them to save money,
time and effort, and in some cases to procure products or services that
would otherwise be unavailable or unaffordable.
Cooperatives are a strong but often unrecognized part of
our lives, meeting needs as diverse as banking and babysitting, food and
housing, commodities and communications, and, of course, electricity. Your
electric cooperative is one of over 900 spread across 47 American states,
each one locally owned, locally controlled, and dedicated to providing its
member-owners with the best possible service at the lowest possible cost,
every minute of every day.
As we’ve noted in these pages many times over many years,
each cooperative is unique, and yet each is united with all the others by a
shared commitment to Seven Cooperative Principles, which are:
This last principle captures best the
boiled-down essence of a cooperative’s mission: to work hard every day to
improve the quality of life in the communities it serves.
As this worldwide celebration of cooperation reaches its
peak during this Cooperative Month, we as Americans of course have much for
which to be grateful. With freedoms unimaginable to most of the residents of
this world, we are able to elect our leaders, speak out on issues, pursue
livelihoods we choose, and most importantly gather freely with family and
We Americans also celebrate another blessing: a strong,
reliable electric infrastructure that powers much of our nation’s economy
and, despite the economic challenges of recent years, still makes our
quality of life the envy of the world. And the over-900 electric
cooperatives across this great land — including the one that you and your
neighbors own here in Virginia — are an integral part of this outstanding
Much of the rest of the world is not as fortunate. But in
the many countries that face economic, political and other woes,
cooperatives become even more important. The service-at-cost structure
stretches precious family dollars further. The self-help model makes core
services available to those either underserved or unserved altogether.
So here’s to October, and to the continued growth and
prosperity of the cooperative spirit that’s served us well here at home, and
has aided over a billion other individuals in countries across the globe.
ye thankful people, come;
Raise the song of Harvest-home;
All is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
— Henry Alford,
19th-century English theologian