The Cooperative Difference: All I want for Christmas


I hope you had a nice Thanksgiving, and that you were able to get a turkey for your table this year. I heard on the radio driving into work this week that turkeys may be this year’s toilet paper, due to high demand coupled with supply chain issues. Christmas is right around the corner, and the headlines are full of doom and gloom, stating that supply chain issues may be the Grinch that stole Christmas in 2021.

Shoppers are being encouraged to buy early to avoid missing out on some items and to avoid rising prices. Video game consoles like the PS5, Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series X are in short supply, as are laptops and tablets, all due to the ongoing global computer chip shortage. In this era of online shopping, it is easy to find many things that you want for Christmas, and Amazon makes it even easier to get them to your house in just a few days. Sometimes it can all be a bit overwhelming — so many choices and only a finite amount of money in the bank account.

I think back to a simpler time on a farm in Iowa when my brothers, sister and I waited for the mailman to deliver the Sears catalog and the JC Penney catalog. We would argue and fight for first choice as we very carefully went through the catalogs and circled everything we wanted for Christmas, putting our names by our circled items. Just like Clement Clarke Moore’s poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” visions of sugar plums danced in our heads, and we had visions of getting all the amazing things that we had circled in the catalogs. However, we were what I now know as very poor, and we were lucky to get even one of the treasures we had circled.

Our Christmas tree was frugal, and most of the presents that were wrapped under the tree were necessities like new socks, T-shirts or gloves, with one of the presents being something fun. I am a product of the ’80s, and jean jackets were in fashion at that time. One year I asked for a cool Levi’s jean jacket for Christmas. A Levi’s jean jacket was too expensive, so I got a Sears, Roebuck and Co. Toughskins jacket instead, and to add insult to injury, it was size “Husky.” There was nothing wrong with that jacket; it just wasn’t cool like the one I wanted. Similarly, all the guys at school were playing the Mattel electronic football game, and I circled this in a catalog. What showed up under the tree was Radio Shack’s knockoff version of Pac Man called “Hungry Monster.” Once again, a fine game, but not the cool and more expensive version that I had wanted in order to fit in with friends.

I must give my mom credit, since she did all the shopping on a very tight budget. One year I asked for a Houston Oilers NFL gym bag, and she delivered. Earl Campbell was one of my childhood heroes, and I was thrilled to get that gym bag. (And for the record, I am still a loyal Earl Campbell fan, and to this day, I buy his Hot Links at Walmart to support him.)

What I am really trying to say is that I didn’t get a lot for Christmas as a kid, and I rarely got what I really wanted. However, the funny thing is that I remember being very happy as a kid. I don’t really remember much about the gifts I received on Christmas morning. But I do remember our church youth group going to retirement homes and to the county mental health center in Summitville, Iowa, and singing Christmas carols to those people who were cooped up in tough living conditions. I remember one elderly lady in a wheelchair telling me that I had a beautiful voice after a rousing rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” in which my solo part was “and a partridge in a pear tree.” I remember loading up like the Griswolds and heading over to spend Christmas Day with Papa and “Bamoo” (to this day I have no idea why we called my grandma “Bamoo”), aunts, uncles and cousins and having a great day with family.

I say all of this to suggest that maybe the global supply shortage is a gift in disguise. As a society, we have become materialistic, and while we are more electronically connected than ever with social media, we are less connected in many ways. Maybe if we have fewer things in stores to focus on, we can spend more time focusing on family and friends, as well as the true meaning of Christmas, this year. I have come to realize that the greatest gift that anyone can give me is the gift of their time. The gifts that I truly cherish through the years are those where someone used their time and talents to make me a gift or to personalize a gift for me in some way.

While I hope that you do get what you really want for Christmas, my true wish is that you get great memories with family and friends. What I really want for my cooperative family this Christmas is for natural gas prices to lower, so we can keep your electricity bills affordable this winter, and for natural gas supplies to be plentiful, so we can keep power reliable this winter.

I would be lying if I didn’t selfishly mention that — much like Ralphie from the movie A Christmas Story, who knew exactly what he wanted for Christmas, “an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle” — I really want rural broadband fiber to my home. I look forward to the day when I can upgrade from my current DSL limited connection speed to a true fiber optic 1Gbps symmetrical upload and download speed, so that I can update Call of Duty on my Xbox in under three days and truly convert my home into a Smart Home.

So, in the words of Clement Clarke Moore’s iconic poem, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Vernon “Buddy” Hasten is President and CEO of Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., and Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation.