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The Power of Human Connections

 The Power of Human Connections

Let me preface by saying that I like my smartphone. It has amazing capabilities. On the other hand, the ever-present little gadgets can cause us to miss out on life-enriching experiences.

On a recent Thursday evening, I was at Caney Creek High School to present scholarships to a couple of outstanding students. Having presented there in years past, I knew to go straight to the room where presenters gather prior to the program.

I arrived 45 minutes early, so I spoke briefly to the school administrators, with whom I am somewhat acquainted. Beyond them, however, I saw no familiar faces. So, I found a comfortable space to stand, looked over the printed program, and then pulled out my smartphone to keep me company for the next half hour or so.

The gentleman standing next to me was doing the same thing. Noticing the Knights of Columbus pin on his lapel, I put my phone in my pocket, introduced myself to Markus and said, “The Knights of Columbus seem to be very supportive of education. I see you guys at every scholarship program I attend.”

The conversation quickly went to, “What business are you in?” And within two minutes, we found common ground. I’ve worked in the electric cooperative industry my entire career, and as it turns out, Markus has deep roots in the electric cooperative industry as well.

His grandfather, who was born in 1912, worked for “the REA” in Alabama in the 1930s. He moved westward as more electric cooperatives came into existence, ultimately landing with Jasper-Newton Electric Cooperative in the 1940s.

He raised his family in Kirbyville, where JNEC is headquartered, and his son (Markus’s father) worked summers clearing trees and brush along the co-op’s lines. Back then, they didn’t have modern trimming equipment for right-of-way clearing, so the “summer hands” learned to climb trees with climbing hooks. It was hard work, but it helped pay for his college education.

After college, Markus’s father moved away from Kirbyville, and settled in Conroe, which is where Markus was born and raised. He’s in the insurance business, but he still remembers how much the electric cooperative family meant to his own family.

The half-hour flew by quickly. We could have talked longer, but it was time for us to be ushered into the auditorium for the program.

Don’t get me wrong, smartphones are great. But this was a good reminder that sometimes it’s better to put them away and have an actual conversation with another human.

Posted by Keith Stapleton, Chief Communications Officer