Monday, March 31, 2014

Take the Time to Hit Pause

   My parents are, in all honesty, the most kind and selfless people that I know.  I’m sure that most people would say that about their parents, but even if my parents weren’t mine, I would still feel the same.  They are the type of people who are never too busy to drop everything and take the time to listen to others. 
   After my dad retired from his job as a feedyard manager a few years back, my parents fulfilled their long-time dream of opening a livestock feed store that we operate from home.  It’s not uncommon to walk out to our barn office to find four or five people just chilling around on some couches drinking a Coke and chatting about life.  Some days, it seems like more people stop by just to visit than to buy feed—and Mom and Dad wouldn’t have it any other way.  My parents are simply good at talking.  But, even more important than that, my parents are great at listening.
   My mom, in particular, is the kind of person that you just want to open up to.  It seems like people are always stopping by or calling just to chit chat.  No matter what is going on in her life, Mom is always more concerned with the needs and well-being of others.  If I grow up to be half the person that she is, I’ll be doing alright.  My mom understands an important concept that fewer and fewer of us seem to grasp—sometimes, people just need to talk.
   Are we spending so much time talking that we can’t listen?  I’ll be the first to admit that I have been guilty of this.  It is easy to think that what’s going on in our lives is the most important.  Maybe we won an award, have a new significant other, or had an outstanding performance in last night’s game.  Don’t get me wrong, those things are awesome.  But do we ever take just a second to hit pause on our voices so someone else can hit play on theirs?
   A lot of times, the people who are the last to speak about themselves are the ones who need to say something the most.  Communication is a two-way street, folks.  If someone looks like they’re having a rough day, ask them about it.  If someone has accomplished something really cool, ask them about it.  Some people probably aren’t going to open up and tell you their whole life story… but, trust me, it matters to them that you asked.  All that it takes is a simple “How are you today?” or “Awesome job last night!” or “How’s your family doing?”
   Take the time to find out what’s up in your friends’ lives, ask the quiet girl how her day is going, tell the junior varsity basketball player that he had a nice shot at the game.  Give people the chance to gush a little bit about how excited they are or vent about how upset they are or offer them a shoulder to lean on if they're struggling.  Friends, it’s easy to be talkers, but it’s vital that we also be listeners.  My parents are pretty special, and I just can’t help but wonder how much better our world would be if everyone tried a little harder to be just like them.

Kansas FFA, take the time to listen!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Telling the Story

            Today is the last day of what, for me at least, has been a jam-packed, fun-filled month full of FFA.  I’m sure that a lot of you had a blast celebrating National FFA Week last week.  I want to give a warm shout-out and thank you to the chapters that hosted me—I had a blast getting to see the cool things that FFA members across our state are accomplishing.  You are all truly inspiring!
            During FFA Week, we do an awesome job of telling the story of FFA and agricultural education.  It was so impressive to see the way that different schools go about celebrating the successes of our Organization and local chapters.  There are posters all over the school, tractors in the parking lot, daily ‘Ag Trivia’ on the school announcements, and the occasional student walking proudly down the hall in their Official Dress.  It’s hard not to notice FFA chapters during FFA Week.
            FFA members, and those in agriculture, face some pretty hefty challenges.  We’re faced with feeding an increasing population (9 billion by 2050, to be exact) with even fewer resources than before. Agriculture is facing opposition from all sides—whether it’s from so-called animal welfare groups, fast food chains that I’m choosing not to name, or uninformed consumers who do not understand how cattle standing in a feedlot become the burger sitting on their plate.  As agriculturists, we are facing an uphill battle. 
            Again, we do an AWESOME job of telling our story during FFA Week.  But, there are 51 other weeks in the year.  Why don’t we focus on telling our story every week, instead of just the week that’s been designated?  There are great things happening in our agricultural education classrooms and FFA Chapters all year round.  On our farms, we are accomplishing things that our ancestors could not have even imagined.  Did you know that today’s farmers produce 262% more food with 2% fewer inputs than farmers in 1950 did?  Or that 97% of American farms are family owned?
            The average American is at least two generations removed from the family farm—making it more important than ever that we inform our consumers about where their food is coming from. We have a great story to share, we just need to do it.  Blogs, posters, inviting people to our farms, striking up a conversation with the person next to us in the produce section—all easy opportunities to share the story of American agriculture and the National FFA Organization.  I’m just as guilty of not taking the time to do it.  But, if we don’t tell our story, someone else will tell it for us.

Kansas FFA, make every week FFA Week!

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Downhill Slope

   The other day it hit me… Right smack dab in the face—my time serving Kansas FFA members is over halfway done.  I’m on the downhill slope, if you will.  My time in the blue jacket is almost over. 
This thought, in all honesty, scares me a little.  Tons of thoughts rush through my head… Have I made a good use of my time?  Did I make a difference?  How many lives have I touched?  These thoughts make me more determined than ever to make the most of my remaining time in the Kansas FFA blue corduroy.  I am ready to face my ‘downhill slope’ with an uphill attitude.  It’s time to appreciate all of the little things, soak it all in, work even harder.
Many of you may also find yourselves on the downhill slope.
   With the end of the school year coming, it’s pretty easy to find ourselves in a rut.  All we want is to not have to go to class, be done studying, and for summer to arrive.  It’s easy to do the bare minimum, scrape by.  I mean, we’ve been working hard since August.  My challenge: work even harder until May—in FFA and in school.  Finish your homework before you arrive in the class that it’s due, do that extra credit assignment that the teacher offered in the class you have a borderline grade in, practice your reasons sets, finish up this year’s record book.  Face this semester with an uphill attitude. 
   This time last year, I was struggling with a bad case of senioritis.  I was ready to be done with high school and off to college, ready for the real world.  For my seniors out there feeling the same way, my challenge: slow down, enjoy every moment.  Although it sounds cliché, you only get to do it once.  Face your final semester in high school with an uphill attitude, even though you really are on the downhill slope.  Work harder in class than you ever have before, try even harder in the CDE’s you have left, and take in every experience that you can while you’re still wearing the blue jacket. 
   When you find yourself chomping at the bit to get out of the small-town that you’ve called home for the last 18 or so years, my challenge: slow down, enjoy every moment.  When your mom’s nagging you to pick up your room, put away your laundry, or just sit down to talk with her—enjoy the moment.  When your dad says it’s your turn to do the chores or unload hay or build fence or just ‘get up and do something, by golly’—enjoy every moment.  When you’re fighting with your siblings over whose turn it is to wash the dishes, help your parents, or honestly just fighting in general—enjoy every moment.
   As weird as it is, I miss my mom nagging at me to put away my clothes.  Truth be told, I miss her just doing my laundry in general.  I miss hanging out with my dad and trying to soak in just a little of his wisdom from the life talks that we regularly have.  I miss fighting with my sister, Sara, about who stole whose shirt and whose turn it is to buy lunch.  And, even though he lives out on his own now, I miss my brother Rusty to death.  Although I love K-State and all of my friends here, nothing is quite like home.
   If we look at life like we’re on the downhill slope, it will all pass us by.  I am just as guilty as anyone of getting caught up in the moment—getting caught up in just getting done.  But life passes by way too fast.  We should wake up everyday and ask ourselves how we can make a difference.  We should wake up everyday and challenge ourselves to savor every moment.

Kansas FFA, have an uphill attitude!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

What's the Reason?

   Without a doubt, my absolute favorite holiday movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas.  In this old-school Christmas cartoon, Charlie Brown searches for the true meaning of Christmas amid the commercialization trap that all of his friends seem to have fallen into.  By the time Christmas rolls around each year, I’ve watched it multiple times.  (Huge shoutout to my friends, and former Louisburg FFA members, Erin, Emily, Conner, and Katheryn for finally giving in and watching it with me!)  If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out!
   But, the more I though about it, the more that I realized that our entire lives are like that of Charlie Brown.  We are constantly so caught up in what’s happening around us that we forget the real reason that we’re doing what we’re doing. 
   Are we in FFA to get out of school?  To score a trip to Manhattan for State Convention?  Are we FFA members because all of our friends are?  Because it’s the thing to do?  
Why are we truly in this organization?
   The reasons to join FFA are endless—and so are the possibilities while we’re wearing the blue jacket.  Maybe we joined FFA because our parents or older siblings were members.  Maybe we’re members because we like cattle or pigs or sheep or meat or tractors or welding.  Maybe we joined FFA because we believe in the future of agriculture—with a faith born not of words but of deeds.  Maybe it's because we want to grow up and give our children the same upbringing that we've had.  FFA can honestly take us anywhere that we will let it.
   FFA members, no matter your reason for joining, I hope that we all, like Charlie Brown, can find a true reason for why we are here.  I can guarantee that if we look hard enough, we will find one.  It’s easy to get caught up with all of the fun activities that our chapters do, but I can guarantee that there is a reason—a purpose—for all of them.  We all have a reason to be here.

Kansas FFA, find your reason to be here!

I wish you and all of your families a very Merry Christmas and an abundance of blessings in the New Year.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Contagious Enthusiasm

   It seems that every time that I have my blog post about half way written, I hit a ‘writer’s block.’  I sit down time after time, and the words just don’t seem to come.  But, then I have an experience that inspires me to write something a little bit different, and the words just seem to flow.
   Last night I had one of those experiences.  Last night I attended the K-State Choir Concert to listen to my friend and former FFA member Claire Bokelman (who has an amazing voice, I might add) and instantly realized that there was something different about this group of singers.  It didn’t take long for me to figure out that it was due to their director.
   This lady oozed passion.  She obviously loved what she was doing, and, in turn, everyone around her loved what they were doing too.  Whether it was talking to the audience between songs, singing along with her group, or clapping enthusiastically for her student conductors, her excitement for her work was contagious.  Her choir, her student conductors, the audience… we all caught the ‘enthusiasm bug.’  This choir director LOVES what she does.
   It was then, in the middle of that concert, that I realized I wanted to be just like her.  No, I don’t mean that music or choir is my calling.  (I can’t carry a tune in a ten gallon bucket.)  But, I want to be so excited about what I’m doing that everyone around me can’t help but be excited as well.  I want to love what I do.
   In FFA, we have a lot of chances to do things that we truly love.  Whether our forte is livestock, public speaking, or math, there truly is a place for all of us to find our passions within this organization.  We all have the chance to love what we do.  I love putting on my blue jacket; I love Kansas FFA members (like Erie FFA members pictured to the right, who I ran into at National FFA Convention); I love the relationships and skills that FFA has helped me to develop.  I love FFA.  I love what I do.
   My hope is that we can all find something to do that we love.  Our lives are happening NOW, and the time will pass by whether we want it to or not.  Would we rather live our lives quietly in the background, or spreading excitement and passion like the K-State choir director?  Don’t be afraid to try something new—our organization has so many opportunities to get outside of our comfort zone.  We never know when we might just find that one thing that we LOVE to do.

Kansas FFA, love what you do!