You light up Cochrane, and you light up my life, too

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, November 21, 2012

Well, folks, it’s that time of year again when our community fills our streets and stores with the light of glorious seasonal celebration. It reminds me how you, my wonderful coffee companions, light up my own life, too.

Yup! This Saturday is Cochrane Light Up, the harbinger of Christmas cheer in our historic downtown.

Christmas cheer? Another bit of good cheer just arrived in my Inbox from one of my favourite community builders, Fred Monk, avid photographer and former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Cochrane currently pastoring in Bow Island.

He had just received a letter from Premier Allison Redford informing him that she and Lieutenant Governor Donald S. Ethell would be presenting him with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in Calgary on Nov. 30.

Her letter noted that the award “is a symbol of service excellence and community involvement presented to outstanding Albertans and Canadians who have demonstrated remarkable commitment and dedication towards numerous efforts.”

I suspect that the honour, in part at least, is in recognition of the photographer/priest’s amazing contributions beyond church walls through his celebratory images of the Bow Island-area’s sugar beet farmers, crop dusters, rodeo riders, centennial organizers, artists and all kinds of folks that make that part of our province so special. (View his photography at

Congratulations, Sir!

And speaking of “Sir,” I must share with you another bright light in my life. You’ll recall that last week I wrote about my wife’s and my “88888 Serendipity Day” in Kananaskis Country, a lighthearted column on Mary Anna’s fascination with palindromes and other interesting number arrangements on our car’s odometer. At the end of the journey, we stopped for lunch in Bragg Creek and had a delightful unexpected encounter with my goddaughter Kateri Cowley, of the Rafter Six Ranch.

Well, I guess Kateri liked the column, because she responded by giving me a new nickname: “Sir N. Dippidy”!

And speaking of responses to that column, here’s one from a former Bow Valley resident who specializes in celebrating the light in others. Phil Minnaar, author of The Positive Dictionary, wrote:

“I particularly liked this week’s story about the odometer at 88888. It is a good example of having a positive outlook on life and a positive attitude towards life. With your and Mary Anna’s positive outlook you noticed the uniqueness and beautiful harmony in the numbers and this made you even more aware of the beauty around you. With your positive attitude you even had a surprise encounter with your goddaughter! Yes, a positive outlook and attitude cause positive things to happen.”

And on that positive note, I simply must share an email I received two weeks ago from a Cochrane reader. Her letter really dazzled me, for she seemed to comprehend so well what I strive to do – albeit imperfectly – with this column. She said:

My name is Erin Wilson; I am a 30 year old mom here in Cochrane.

I just read your Cochrane Eagle column on your prayer for the president of the U.S. (Nov. 7). I want you to know I am always so blessed by what you write, and this time, incredibly. I have listened to numerous reactions from Christians and non-Christians alike, and your article was so grace-filled, truth filled and inspiring – calling people to pray for leaders instead of demonizing them. This kind of prayer releases grace upon these leaders to fulfill their call to justice, mercy and truth.

So thank you for what you wrote. And thank you for all your writing. You have such an incredible ministry and voice in this town. I feel like so much of what you write comes straight from God’s heart, and you have an amazing way of presenting faith in a way that can be digested and not discarded, yet you hold to the integrity of your convictions and have no qualms stating clearly what the Bible says.

You are able to cross lines of denomination, religion, and culture. The way you honour the First Nations in our area through your writing is healing to our community. You speak the language of this town while releasing hope, faith, and I believe, the heart of the Father. Please keep doing what you are doing, releasing what you are releasing. You have an honoured place here in Cochrane, and I pray that the grace upon your life and your writing grows stronger and richer.

Erin’s letter left me feeling very unworthy of such kind words. But the best part of its pre-Christmas brightness was her closing sentence, a commitment to pray for me and this column I hope she fulfills often.

Thank you for lighting up my life – and my world.


© 2012 Warren Harbeck

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