Chesney Guest Column: Thankful for shared Northwest Illinois Values

With Thanksgiving behind us and the Christmas Season fast approaching, family draws near as we celebrate the most glorious gift given us by God.

As I reflect on the past year during this Holiday Season, my first full year serving as your State Representative, it’s been a year of “firsts” for me serving in this position on your behalf.  To say that I had hometown pride when I began serving you is an understatement.  However, I am ever-more drawn to the rural beauty and small-town charm we enjoy in Northwest Illinois.  After this year of “firsts” in the Illinois General Assembly, I am all the prouder and more energized by our shared Northwest Illinois Values.

I haven’t been afraid to talk about our Northwest Illinois Values while serving you in Springfield.  Call me prideful if you must, but I feel there is something very special about the common-sense approach we take to helping our neighbors in Northwest Illinois.  I see it every day in our values on full display throughout the communities I represent in Northwest Illinois.

There is much more that unites us than divides us.  I see this firsthand when celebrating the Lena-Winslow Class 1A State Champion Football team.  Arch-rivals in the conference still come together to cheer on what became “our team” for the whole region.  They made us all proud and we do them right by celebrating this accomplishment of athleticism and excellence.

When this holiday season began the Freeport Area Church Cooperative set an original goal of $15,000 yet raised $26,584 to combat homelessness and hunger, Northwest Illinois Values were on full display.  The servant leadership of local advocates and officials demonstrating hardships for the homeless and hungry firsthand brought out the best in our community and in our spirit of human compassion.

The Timber Lake Playhouse is the oldest continuously operating professional and resident summer stock theater company in the state, and it brings in tourists throughout the region, including over 29,000 visitors last year.  They contribute to the cultural spirit of our region and recently expanded their season into December thanks to a spirit of giving by local contributors.  We value the arts in our region and step up time and again in supporting them.  This is Northwest Illinois Values on display.

Finally, in a recent interaction with a constituent of mine, I saw an aspect of Northwest Illinois Values that gives me great hope for our future as a State.  A constituent, voter, and taxpayer contacted me upset about an issue which we differed in our opinions and approaches.  I knew that I would not change her mind on the issue and she also knew she would not change mine.  We recently sat down to discuss the issue, a legislative issue likely to come up again in the Spring Session, and I listened intently to her feedback and thoughts.  Her voice matters to me.  Even though I know that we do not agree and will not agree on this issue, we sat down and talked it through ad-nauseum.  I heard her out and she did the same.  We disagreed but were respectful in our disagreement.  In talking the issue out, we found many periphery issues which we do agree on.  Heartfelt conversations and mutual respect led us to a better place and allowed us to recognize we are not as far apart as we may have thought that we were at the beginning of the conversation.

I share this story because I think this, too, signifies our Northwest Illinois Values.  When we differ, we may do so passionately. We can disagree without being disagreeable, knowing that the other person is still a contributing compassionate member of our community, even if we differ with them here and there.

That is Northwest Illinois Values.  I am thankful for these Values.  I am proud of these Values.  It’s ok to recognize the exceptionality of what makes us special.  As I reflect on a year of “firsts”, I cannot help but be grateful to represent communities of such amazing people who represent these Values every day.  Wishing you and your families the nearness of family, the warmth of loved ones and a Holiday spirit that we strive to continue to display year-round.