A gift that keeps on giving

As many eagerly anticipate the holidays, I, for one, can be a bit of a Grinch. While I’m certainly not going to steal presents from children or tear down decorations, I do cringe when I see Christmas items for sale in early fall. I try to tune out the holiday music playing in stores far too early, and when I see people put up their Christmas trees on Nov. 1, I have to laugh knowing that in the past my own Christmas tree was put up and placed back into storage within a 24-hour period.

However, I’m trying to change my ways. Although I doubt my heart will grow three sizes, my goal for this holiday season is to take some time to reflect on the past year and appreciate the blessings I have in my life.

For one, I find myself lucky to be a part of this electric cooperative family. It is a group of people who truly care for the communities they serve. Whether it is through volunteering, donations, safety demonstrations or just telling people how to use less electricity, electric co-ops are all about community. And I’m grateful to be a part of that.

In fact, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if it wasn’t for a Christmas gift I received as a teenager. The Bradford side of my family never celebrated Christmas on Christmas Day. We celebrated when we could due to my dad’s busy and unpredictable work schedule on the railroad.

Both of my grandparents were excellent cooks, and every year I looked forward to the hors d’oeuvres, desserts and chili served (though I always passed on the oyster stew). If I ever went home hungry, it was my own fault.

This particular Christmas, I opened a gift I didn’t know I needed. It was a small Canon PowerShot digital camera. To be honest, while I appreciated the gift, I was a little confused by it. I hadn’t shown much interest in photography since preschool, when my friend and I went to my front yard and photographed literal dog poop. (I would like to point out that my friend is now a professional photographer.) You can imagine my mother’s surprise when she developed the film.

Despite my confusion, I was still excited to try out my first digital camera. I loved exploring my rural community in Fulton County with the camera, and I found that I started seeing the world in frames. I didn’t expect my hobby to later turn into something I’d use in my career.

Working at Illinois Country Living magazine has given me the opportunity to share all the great parts of Illinois with readers just like you. I’m honored to help tell the stories of people, places and electric co-ops from across the state. And all of this is thanks to that little package I opened in my grandparents’ living room all those years ago on that non-Christmas day.

During the holidays this year, I will hold on to those memories with my Grandpa Peewee and Grandma B, as they were lovingly called by all their grandchildren. The two passed away this fall a mere three weeks apart, but their memories live on.

In this time of reflection, I find myself beyond grateful for my wife, my family and my co-op family. I cherish all the memories from the past and look forward to making many more, and I hope you do the same. So, whatever holiday you celebrate during the merriest of times, try not to be a Grinch, enjoy time with your loved ones, and have the happiest of holidays.