Tuesday, March 27, 2018

When is Your Time?

I have always hated making decisions. Really big life changing decisions frightened me for the longest time, and making the little day to day decisions, like what I`m going to eat for lunch, are tedious and annoying to me. Being indecisive is something I've lived with my whole life. So, naturally, I looked to those around me to help make these decisions. For the big decisions in my life, one of those special people is my father. He was actually the person who taught me the most about my choices and how important they are. My father has a unique outlook on life. He believes that in every situation in life we have a choice on how to approach and handle it. I remember the day my father taught this exact lesson to my brothers and I.

  It was a Saturday, and just like every Saturday, my brothers and I were enjoying a nice day at home. Just like every Saturday, my brother Tobias and I, being very similar people, were butting heads on who would be using the only computer in the house next. Like normal my oldest brother Sam tried to break up the impending argument that was about to break out and got drug into the argument himself. So naturally, we went to the only parental advisor in the house, my father. It just so happened, that on this particular Saturday, my mother had taken the day off to hang out with her friends; fully knowing this, I was ready to put on the best “daddy`s little girls” act to get what I wanted. As we all ran up to my dad speaking at once, he told us to stop. He looked at the three of us and asked us a very confusing question. “If I were to spit on you, would you be mad?” My brothers and I exchanged confusing looks. I`m thinking, “Dad, you’re the one who taught me spitting on people is socially unacceptable. Of course I would be mad!”  

My brothers and I came to the conclusion and told our dad, “Yes, if you spit on us, we would be mad at you.” Our father looked at us and said, “No, you would be wet. Only you decide whether you get mad or not.” At the time I did not fully understand this lesson; however, I was recently reminded how much our decisions affect our lives and thought back to what my dad had taught my siblings and me. He was right; we have a decision in everything in our lives, and they have a big impact on where we end up. This was made clear to me just the other week.

After the six of us were elected to office, we were beyond excited to be serving the members of Minnesota FFA. We knew that the year was going to be jam packed full of adventures and opportunities we had never been given before. On of these opportunities was going to be traveling to South Africa for two weeks. I was very excited for the opportunity and wanted to go back to the country that had stolen a part of my heart two years earlier. I longed to go back, but this trip would be a big chunk of money (on top of the even bigger chunk of money I was paying for college), and the trip was going to be the first two weeks in January (which happened to be the first two weeks of spring semester). This was going to be a hard decision. So, I turned to my dad for guidance. After a long talk, he made it clear that in the end this was my decision not his, but he did leave me with this advice, “Spencer, I know that there will be many opportunities for you throughout this year. Maybe this one is just not for you. There is a time and a place for everything, so what is your time? Maybe there is something bigger right around the corner.”

In the end, I decided not to go on the trip to South Africa with my teammates. But little did I know that my father was right; there was an amazing opportunity right around the corner. A few weeks after my teammates had been accepted as one of the 75 state officers traveling to South Africa, I learned of an opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. for National Ag Day. This was an opportunity I was not going to let pass me by. My teammate Eleora and I applied, and were both very excited when we got accepted. We booked our
flights and waited for March 20th to come. The chaos of my life took my mind away from my trip, and it slipped to the back of my mind. The Monday before we were to leave I got an email from the National Ag Day coordinator; it read: “we're excited to see you in D.C. in a week!’ and included a few tasks we had to complete before arriving. I got excited and started a packing list. Knowing I would have the time to speak with some Congressmen and women, I caught up on Minnesota agriculture so I could have good conversations when in D.C. Later that week on Thursday, I received another email from Jordan who works for National FFA; this email got me very excited to travel to D.C. It was inviting me to attend the National Ag Day Celebration and Proclamation Signing at the United States Department of Agriculture on Tuesday with the Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue, and special guest speaker Vice President Mike Pence. I was going to see our Vice President speak, I was so excited for the opportunity! I went home that night and celebrated with my family. 
       The next morning, I was standing in the kitchen talking with my dad before I had to leave to go to a conference. I was just about to leave when my phone buzzed, and I decided to check it before I left (and boy, am I glad I did!!!). It was an email from a staff member from National FFA, It went something like this…

I hope this email finds you well, and you are excited to join us in Washington D.C. for National Ag Day. I was just wondering if you would like to introduce the Secretary of Agriculture at the celebration on Tuesday?”

Needless to say, my jaw hit the floor! Standing in my kitchen, I quickly replied to the email saying I would LOVE the opportunity! Then my dad looked at me and said, “Spencer, remember when you didn't take the opportunity to travel to South Africa, and I said it was because it wasn't your time. Well, now is your time.”  

BEYOND excited, I jumped on the plane to head to D.C. for the opportunity of a lifetime. On Tuesday I introduced the Secretary of Agriculture, met the Vice President, and received a special shout out in his speech. I was on cloud nine for days!! I got this incredible opportunity because I waited for my time.

As FFA members we are given countless opportunities in and out of the blue jacket. I know many FFA members who take all of them (don't worry, I was the same way). Even though we have many opportunities available to us, often times we do not get every single one. Whether it be serving in a specific office we were going for, or competing at a higher level in a CED or LDE, getting the lead role in a play or musical, getting a scholarship to school or a camp/conference, or getting that perfect dream job, it is not because we are not good enough for it, it is simply not our time. What is the next thing right around the corner we can't see yet? How do we handle ourselves when we don't achieve a goal? Are we bitter and full of resentment, or do we move forward to the next opportunity knowing it is not our time? When is your time?

Check out the clip of me introducing the Secretary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJVX-Pdwx1c&feature=youtu.be

For the final time, Stationed by the Emblem of Washington,

Spencer Flood 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

You Reap What You Sow

This week I had the amazing opportunity to hop on a plane with Spencer and spend time in Washington DC, celebrating National Ag Day. Now obviously, this is my favorite holiday because who doesn’t love agriculture?! I was more than excited to spend a whole day advocating on behalf of something I was so passionate about, and I maintained this enthusiasm all night throughout the conference. We talked to experts in agriculture and practiced exactly what we would say when we walked through the office doors of our legislators. My favorite part of this preparation was listening to everyone’s unique agriculture stories which ultimately brought them to the chairs they sat in that day. Fast forward through an early morning full of pouring rain, drying skirts underneath hand dryers, and legislative meetings to where we were sitting in the United States Department of Agriculture’s cafeteria.
After listening to the wise words of Sonny Perdue, the United States Secretary of Agriculture, we were asked to reflect on our day and what had happened in our visits. After processing our experiences, we were then asked to talk to someone sitting next to us. After talking for a while, my partner and I started talking about how crazy it was for people to not understand agriculture, and how we have to work so hard to advocate for it, even when we really don’t see the results.
For us as FFA members, it’s hard for us to NOT understand agriculture. If you eat it, it’s related to agriculture. If you wear clothes, it’s related to agriculture. If you live in house, it’s related to agriculture. Yes, these may all be different facets, but it’s all connected nonetheless. We put so much emphasis on being consistent with our agricultural stories but sometimes it’s hard when others don’t understand them. Ultimately however, they can all be related to one quote:

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”

When things take time, it’s hard to see the big picture and we get frustrated looking at the small details. As advocates for the things we are passionate about, we don’t necessarily see the results right away. Even when we go through life, we don’t see the results; however, we may see them years later!
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of watching the Deer River FFA chapter’s Conduct of Chapter Meetings team as they prepared for State Convention this spring. I watched as they point of ordered each other, rocked their opening ceremonies, and debated their chapter’s fruit sales. After an impressive demonstration, they sat and discussed what they could work on to be even better than they were now. To some people it
may seem like little things, but to them, those little things made all the difference for an even better result. Their team wasn’t focused on what they looked like now; they were focused on what they could DO now to make themselves better.
In life and agriculture, we must remember this as we encounter others. Even though it may be hard, we need to look for the bigger picture of the impact we have and not just the results we see right away. There’s no doubt we will encounter those who don’t have the same opinions as us or those who don’t quite comprehend the importance of agriculture, but we still must plant those seeds for them. No matter how small it may be, the seeds we plant now can grow into other incredible things that others can utilize. Whether it’s the steps we take to prepare a CDE team, the number of times we tell our family we love them, or even the seconds we listen to someone about their day, those small seeds we plant, end up growing into an incredible outcome.

Stationed by the flag for the final time,

Eleora DeMuth

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Man. The Myth. The Legend.

This week didn’t go quite as I had planned. Yesterday I had the unfortunate luck of finding out that the power steering in my car was badly damaged and needed to be repaired. When I brought my car into Park Service station this morning, however, I was greeted by friendly faces and the reminder that my car would definitely be in good hands. I talked with Ned, the station’s owner, and Paul, one of the mechanics, to make a plan for the repair of my vehicle. The strong relationship I have with the guys at Park Service is just one of the ways that my grandfather’s legacy lives on.
My grandfather, Nick Mayers, lived his entire life working at service stations. His father managed an old Texaco station where my grandfather began working when he was only ten years old. He worked at a variety of stations throughout college and took over owning Park Service station when his dad passed away in 1967. At thirty years old he began operating his own small business and building his reputation throughout the community. He got to know just about everyone in the area, and everyone knew him. My grandfather would often hire young men to work as they attended college, and many of the men he trained have talked about the work ethic they learned from him well into their careers. He was a mentor to many and a respected leader in the community.  But his time at the station wasn’t without its challenges.

    In 1982 my grandfather had a severe cardiac arrest while working at the station. He spent five weeks in a coma and after finally waking up, remembered nothing. After long months of relearning everything from how to button his shirt, walk up stairs, eat with a fork, and drive. My grandma and his therapists spent weeks teaching him the names of common things like cars and trees and even the names of his siblings and children. The doctors said the fact that he was still alive was a miracle, and he worked hard to get back to any normal way of life. His recovery was a miracle in itself and within 9 months he was back to work at the station. While it was hard to adapt sometimes, he continued to work the best he could in the community to run his business. As he had worked so hard to support community members before, they all came together to support him and his family. Despite all of the hardships, he successfully operated the station for the next 17 years before retiring. Nick Mayers was a legend. He spent 51 years of his life working at stations on Como Avenue and left a legacy that will continue to survive throughout my lifetime.

    While my grandpa might not be around anymore, his spirit of comradery, mentorship, and community lives on at Park Service. But he didn’t leave a legacy because of one thing he did, he left a legacy because of all of the things he did. My grandpa built his legacy every day. Every time he showed a customer he valued their time and business by building a personal connection, or mentored a young mechanic, or persevered through the hours of occupational therapy so he could get back to doing what he loved, that’s when my grandpa built his legacy. In the same way, we build our own reputations and legacies with every choice we make. Every time we serve someone in need, encourage others around us, connect with new people, or support our communities or families, we create our own legacies. Each and every day we build the person that we are becoming and begin to leave an impression with our actions. The power of our legacies and actions live on beyond the span of our own lives. We have the chance each day to leave a legacy we are proud of. What legacy will you leave for your grandchildren?  

Stationed beneath the rising sun, 

Katie Benson