Where You Belong

Concern for Community is more than a catchphrase to electric cooperatives. It’s what happens naturally when a business is owned by, employs and serves local folks.

February 2020

Richard G. Johnstone Jr., Executive Editor

Home. Is it where we long to return … or constantly search to find? Is it a place where we want to spend each day … or be at the end of our days? Is it where ancestors dwelled … or where grandchildren are moving? Is it all of these? Or perhaps something altogether different?

The homeplace of my youth is a rambling Dutch Colonial on the edge of a small mill town in west-central Georgia. My mother returned there, to her childhood home, to give birth to me after the U.S. Army assigned my father to overseas duty in post-war Japan.

So, I spent my first year of life surrounded by the warmth of my mother and a full and loving household: great-grandmother, grandparents and two great-aunts. Nowadays an infant’s every gurgle and smile are archived in digital imagery. I think I’m luckier, the beneficiary of a trove of richly detailed stories about my earliest days, shared countless times with me over the years by all six adults in the household.

When my father returned home from the service, his career as a sales rep would take my mother, younger brother and me all over the Southeast with him to residences in seven cities in six states in 14 years, Richmond being our fortunate final stop.

Being uprooted so frequently deepened and strengthened my roots to the homeplace of my mother, which became my homeplace, too.

It’s where I delighted in spending Christmases, clumsily assisting my grandfather as he erected a tacky yet beloved aluminum tree in the dining room. Or excitedly watching as he contorted himself, casting jumbled strings of colored lights across the boxwoods beside the front porch.

It’s where I worked several idyllic summers as a young teen, scooping ice cream and making lemonades at the soda fountain of the drugstore where my grandfather was both pharmacist and owner.

It’s where I sat for hours at a worn Formica kitchen table, listening to my great-grandmother or great-aunts recount family history back to the 1700s.

It’s where I spent winter holiday evenings, in the cozy den, all of us filling every inch of cushion space on chairs and sofa, watching flickering images on a small TV screen of sitcoms and Westerns.

It’s where I spent lazy summer evenings, on the small side porch, white rockers slowly moving up and down, hand-held fans stirring warm air, crickets chirping and tree frogs singing in the endless darkness beyond.

And it’s where I squirmed and tugged at a tight necktie during church services on Sunday mornings; back row, always, to minimize viewing of my grandfather’s slumber and my grandmother’s persistent efforts to elbow him awake.

So, whether the gravitational pull comes from family or landscape, tradition or culture, maybe home is simply where you feel comfortable … loved … at peace. Where you belong.

The homeplace of my youth is now a homeplace in memory only. My last visit was in 1996, paying final respects at the funeral of my grandmother, the last of her generation to pass away. The house was emptied and sold long ago, another family or two having surely remade those same precious spaces into their own homeplace.

In the rich storehouse of memory, though, the magic of the times I spent there lingers still, decades later.

This same magical power of place is one of the strengths of electric cooperatives.

Co-ops are local utilities, owned by those they serve. A co-op’s not-for-profit structure helps it hold down costs. Its employees and board members are local people. Its well-being is firmly tied to the well-being of the communities it serves.

So, Concern for Community is more than a catchphrase. It’s what happens naturally when a business is owned by, employs and serves local folks.

A co-op’s passion and its business plan are one and the same: to continue serving you and your neighbors, reliably, affordably, responsibly.

And, of course, in this special place.

This special place that a co-op’s employees, directors and members all call home.    