Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Be Grateful. Always.

IMG_7979.JPGEarlier this fall, I was having supper at my friend Mariah’s house right before Thanksgiving. We were munching on some spaghetti and talking about life when we landed on the subject of gratitude. I had asked her if she had ever had an experience that was extremely difficult to go through but she was grateful for. She shared her answer with me, and then asked if I had ever had an experience like that. I thought about the question, and then told her my answer. My grandpa Dennis has Alzheimer’s disease and my grandma Eva Lee, who passed away earlier this year, had dementia, both of which are diseases that cause memory loss. It’s heartbreaking to see my grandparents battle these diseases and struggle to remember who I am, as well as many other important parts of their lives.

It is because of these challenges that I am even more grateful for the time I spend with them. Before my grandparents started losing their memories, I took much of the time I spent with them for granted. It was simply “another trip to grandma’s house,” and I would spend time watching TV or doing homework, rather than spending time with my grandparents. After the memory loss began, I remembered all of the good times and fun memories I had with each grandparent and decided I would no longer take time for granted because each moment has value that cannot be bought back.

So often in life, we rush through things. We strive to become more efficient, more productive, more competent. We forget our time is limited and that we are not promised tomorrow. What if we cherished every moment? What if we told those around us how much we value them? What if we committed to living a life of love, a life of joy, or a life of gratitude? What if we took a leap of faith and ran away with our dreams instead of holding back and saying “maybe next time”? Think of how different life would be if everyone lived like this!

This holiday season, many of us will be surrounded by friends and family. I challenge each and every one of us to remember the value of time and live in such a way that when we reflect on our lives, we will be filled with gladness instead of remorse. We will be filled with gratitude instead of regret. We will say “remember when?” instead of “what if?”. This holiday season, let’s put down our cell phones and instead focus on those around us. Let’s live in the moment and cherish our time spent with others. We never know where life will take us, so let’s take a moment when we’re surrounded by those we care about and express our gratitude and love for those important to us. This will help all of us live a life we can be proud of every day. We can be grateful, always!

Stationed by the ear of corn,

Wendy Bauman

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

What's your "Why?"

It is getting close to Christmas, and therefore, I am beginning to look forward to opening the beautiful packages that decorate the bottom of my family’s Christmas tree. One thing that is on the very top of my wish list this year is a “Love Your Melon” stocking cap. All of my friends are wearing them, and they look SO cute. They come in many different of colors, and you can even get them with a pom on the top. All of these qualities are great, but the real reason I want one of these hats is because of their background. Love Your Melon was started by two college students from Minnesota. This business started as a class assignment but has now turned into a mission to improve the lives of children who are battling cancer. For every hat that is purchased, a hat is given to child with cancer. This is the reason that I want a Love Your Melon hat.

Can you think of anything you’ve wanted because of something like this? I do this all the time. There seems to always be a reason, a why, that I want something. Anyone can make a nice stocking cap, but it is the companies who have a reason behind their product that sell it successfully. Much of this concept can apply to life. As young adults, we have the opportunity to be involved in so many different things whether it is sports, clubs, organizations or youth groups. Our opportunities are endless, yet we aren’t involved in everything. We decide, and our decision isn’t truly based off what it can offer us or when it meets or how much time it takes. The decision is based off the why.

Two nights ago, I had the opportunity to spend the night at the Jackson County Central FFA Chapter’s Crop Show and Degree Night. Their chapter Vice President, Ally, had text me a few weeks back asking me if I would come speak at the event. I was immediately excited to go and began to think of what I wanted to share with them. The day of the event came, and Ally checked in with me to see if I had all the information I needed. She also shared with me that she was finishing memorizing all of her lines for the degree ceremonies. This text may have seemed so small, but it really left me thinking about what FFA members do for this amazing organization. 

I continued to think about this as I attended the Crop Show and Degree Night. That night I got to watch 37 members receive their Greenhand Degree and 41 members earn their Chapter Degree. I watched the officer team recite their opening ceremonies with pride. I listened to Mady and Kayla talk about their experiences this past summer at the Washington Leadership Conference—their love of service and adventure exuded from them. And, I spent time with Maggie, their past FFA chapter president, who came back that night just to “help out,” and well, to be my support. 

After I got home, I continued to think about the dedication that not only these but all FFA members show in all they do. Ally is truly a perfect example of this. Ally had spent her day memorizing the degree ceremony parts, contacting me to make sure I had my life together and even submitting crop samples in the crop show. Ally has spent her FFA career serving others by serving as a chapter officer and on the state nominating committee. Ally shows a dedication to FFA, but she doesn’t do it because it is just another club. Ally might do this because she believes in the future of agriculture. She might believe in the opportunity to build relationships with people from across the United States. She might believe that all people can be leaders. This may be the reason that you as an FFA member do what you do. This is our why.

The concept of “why” comes from Simon Sinek who is known for his TED talk and many books that he has written. I first heard of him when I listened to him speak at the Live2Lead conference I attended and furthered my interest when our leadership coordinator, Lavyne Rada, threw one of his books at me and told me I could read it. Sinek talks about how there is a Golden Circle. The outside circle is the “what.” Most companies and organizations can tell you what they do. Then, there is the “how.” This is how the product works or how the organization runs. These parts of the circle are fairly easy to reach, but only a few can reach the most important circle: the “why.” This circle is the hardest to reach, but once it is reached, the organization will forever be successful as long as they keep that “why.”

This “why” is the purpose, cause, or belief that inspires us to do something or buy something. Just like I want a Love Your Melon hat because it will help a good cause, FFA members want to be in FFA because it builds strong leaders and nourishes forever friendships. FFA has a strong why and that is the reason we have such strong, loving members that surround us. Everyday I am amazed by the lengths FFA members are willing to go to help our Ag teachers, friends, supporters and producers. We all have a “why,” but for many of us, it will be different.

 How often do you answer the question, “Why do you love FFA?” with “because of the opportunities, the travel, the people.” All of these things are great, but these are only what FFA does. Every club can say that, but why is FFA different? I challenge us all to find our why. By finding your why, you will discover the great love you have for FFA. By knowing why you dedicate so much to FFA, you can better tell others your story. You can share your “why” and the legacy you want to leave.

Why do you memorize lines, drive hours for a competition, study binders after binders for CDES and work day and night to have a strong SAE? Think about it for a second. You all have a reason for what you do. We need to find that so that we can share it with others. In the words of Simon Sinek, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” FFA Members, parents, teachers and supporters, why do you do what you do?

P.S. If you are looking for some inspiration over the break, check out Simon Sinek's TED Talk. It won't disappoint!

Stationed by the Plow,

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Welding the Friendship of a Lifetime

“I DID IT! I CAN WELD! OH MY GOSH!” is what I screamed after completing my first ever oxyacetylene weld a few weeks ago. We all face some pretty scary moments in our lives, and we conquer them with a positive attitude along with a little elbow grease and some help from others. For me, one of my scariest moments happened this fall in my first ever agricultural mechanics class, and I was pretty lucky to have a great support group help me take apart my first small gas engine and weld for the first time.

Walking into my first day of my first ever shop class this semester was a nerve wracking experience for me. The fact that I had virtually no experience in a shop made me worried. I constantly compared myself to everyone else in the class since several of them had more experience than me in a shop setting. As our teacher, Mr. T, started rattling off the different things we would be doing in class throughout the semester on our first day, I was tempted to just quit and take the class some other time. But I didn’t.

At the start of the semester, I was lucky to be paired with someone who knows a thing or two about small engines and welding and is too humble to admit it, and his name is Noah - and he is as pro as the welder to the right (no joke). While I did not know him incredibly well at the start of the semester, I knew one thing was for sure, he was going to be in for a long semester as my partner. I had no idea what I was doing, and I made that clear from the minute we were paired! But, he was willing to meet me where I was at without judgements.

Throughout the semester, I have missed some class for FFA events, been confused on numerous concepts in the textbook and have missed countless demonstrations in the shop. But Noah didn’t mind - he WANTED to help me. In fact, I even thought the flywheel was the muffler when we were working on our engine… so you can see that I am not kidding when I say I was a wreck! Despite this, Noah had one overall goal in mind this semester - to help me so I knew where the parts on the engine were and how to lay a bead on my metal. In fact, he frequently sacrificed several workdays in class to help me ensure that I got my required welds completed; he put others before his own needs. This, my friends, is what we call a servant leader.

I am a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, so I believe God keeping me in this shop class happened for a reason. What is that reason? To be honest, while learning about how to take apart an engine and learning how to weld have been fun, I value the relationship that has been built and the memories that have been made between my friend Noah and I in this course. Had I given up and dropped this class on the first day, this experience would not have happened and I would not be as close with Noah as we are now. Noah and I grew so much through taking apart our engine and welding in the shop, and even though I am nowhere near perfect and still struggle at times, that doesn’t even matter. Why? Because now, we have welded the friendship of a lifetime and work together inside and outside of the classroom and I find so much more value in that. In fact, we even volunteered this weekend by ringing bells for the Salvation Army!

FFA members, I invite you to take risks. You will grow as a result, and better yet, you will be as happy as Noah and I were when we finished putting our small engine back together. Although you might be worried or nervous about how to approach these situations, give them your all because going into an experience, you never know what you can get out of them. For me, I welded a friendship. What will YOU weld next?

Stationed by the Door,
Joe Ramstad