Thursday, February 11, 2016

Kindness Is the Root of All Good Things...

Carrots and Kindness, they go together.  Well, at least in my mind they do, because carrots are root vegetables and grow underground, they absorb a great amount of nutrients from the soil.  Once carrots have been allowed to grow, they can be harvested, so that all the good things they contain may be shared.  Kindness can also be grown, harvested, and shared with others.  Why am I talking about Carrots and Kindness you ask?  Well, let me tell you…

As many of you know, in January during the ILSSO trip, we traveled to South Africa.  On January 6th we had the opportunity to visit the Langplaas Vegetable farm.  The Langplaas Farms belong to the Van Rensburg family and it is now in the 4th generation of ownership. Their farm is irrigated, and they also have a state of the art packing house and cooling facilities which include a hydro cooling system.  The family raises approximately 500 Hectares (1200 acres) of vegetables including butternut squash, garden beets, sweet potatoes, onion and, yep you guessed it…carrots.

When we arrived to the Langplass Vegetable Farm, it was our second farm visit that day.  It was a very warm, very sunny, 96°F when we stepped off the bus.  A welcomed temperature to us Midwesterners on the trip, but a very warm day for those working in the fields each day.  We were greeted first by the farm manager who explained to us the history and overall operation of the farm.  After our introductions, we were invited to go directly into the fields and work side by side with the farm employees harvesting carrots! 

Immediately we were greeted with extreme kindness and felt very welcomed by everyone participating in the carrot harvest.  Can you are hard at work in the warm sun, going about your job, picking carrots, hauling them to the truck and suddenly, 75 American college students are spreading out among your field?  The farm workers didn’t blink an eye.  They welcomed us immediately and despite the fact they spoke very little English, they tried to communicate with us as much as they were able.  Smiles, however, know no language barrier, and kindness and friendship were instantly universal and apparent.  These workers were totally gracious and freely sharing of kindness with us. I was humbled and grateful to be here and tried to absorb every nutrient of this hands on learning opportunity.

We “dug in” and began harvesting with the farm employees.  The carrots were picked from the ground and then loaded into large crates.  Once the crates were full, it took two people to hoist the full and heavy crates onto the top of the head of another worker. Once the full crate was placed on top of the worker’s head, it was walked across the field and loaded into the nearest truck for transport to the on-farm packing facility.  Talk about farm fresh produce.  I was shown how to properly pick the carrots from the ground, then I was encouraged to try and carry the full crate of carrots on my head!  With a gentle kindness, the farm employees placed a type of head wrap on me, that helps protect the head when transporting the heavy crate to the waiting truck.  A little bit of fear washed over me… I was thinking: what if I can’t do this or what if I am not strong enough to carry this heavy load on top of my head?  I didn’t want to let down the very people who had opened their field, minds and hearts to us.  With encouragement and help from my new found friends, I was successful in landing the crate on my head!  Now, just to get to the truck!  Again, their kindness encouraged me, and I was successful in transporting the carrots to the truck!  They applauded me and celebrated my efforts! 

Here they were applauding me for my efforts in succeeding in a task they accomplish daily, and I was so touched by their support. At the end of the day, the carrots were successfully harvested, taken to the amazing packing facility, packaged and sent out to the consumers.   But at the end of the day, it was more than a successful harvest of an orange root vegetable.  It was the welcoming actions and kindness of these farm employees that was at the root of this experience.   What could have been viewed as a simple act of agricultural farm labor in a beautiful farm field, turned out to be so much more than that.  Because these amazing people opened their workplace to us, welcomed us to their daily lives, and showed us kindness, we all truly became better people that day. 8,000 miles from home and we were taught the lesson of a lifetime, to carry with us and share. 

I’ve been thinking about this experience a lot since my return home, and I can say I see the power in kindness and in even a simple smile.  A simple gesture can literally change someone’s day.  We don’t have to know their entire life story, their struggles, or even their accomplishments.  We can be kind to each other, no matter what.  So my FFA friends, I encourage you…be kind to others.  Be a day changer, a day maker for someone.  It doesn’t cost anything but can be of great value to others with whom you cross paths.

I truly lived and felt the FFA Motto during this farm visit:  We were Learning to Do and Doing to Learn during the harvest, we got to assist the farm employees in Earning to Live and now we can be Living to Serve by sharing the life lessons in kindness from that day.
Remember…Kindness is the root of all good things

Stationed by the Flag,

Madison Taylor 

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