Sunday, September 30, 2018

Kindness, Some Kind of Way

I’ve come to realize kindness can be shown in many kinds of ways. It’s something that can have a message of friendliness; it's something that can have a message of encouragement or maybe even hope.

Image result for Kindness word

About a year ago, on a Friday night in September, I was feeling frustrated, 
underappreciated, and overwhelmed. I had recently begun a new internship 
as a research assistant. Amidst the other stressors of my first semester of 
college, I was in an unfamiliar workplace where I didn’t know anyone,
and I felt as if they didn’t want to get to know me.

On this particular Friday, I was working late, past dark and I was worried 
about how I would get back to the other side of campus, upset that this was
the third weeknight I had worked in a row and that I hadn’t yet studied for 
my exam coming up on Monday.

I try to live by the idea that I always have the choice to change my outlook 
on the situation. This was one of those times when I couldn’t bring myself 
to see the positive. At that moment, Grace, one of the graduate students in 
the lab where I was interning, decided to stop by.

She told me to stop by her office when I was done for the night to grab a hot cup of tea for the bus ride home. That small gesture gave me what I needed 
to finish my tasks with purpose and feel like my work was worth it.

When I wasn’t strong enough to change my perspective, an act of kindness
helped me change it. Grace and I became friends, and she helped me realize 
that it’s not the absence of stress that makes life pleasant, it is the kindness 
we show each other.

Now, a year later writing this blog on a Friday night in September, I am no 
longer trying to manage the stressors of my first semester in college or 
trying to find my role in a new internship, but there are certainly still things 
that upset and worry me, just as there are for you.

My roommate Melodee and I have a friend we call upon whenever we need
ice cream. Today was one of those days we called. A Friday where we were 
doing homework, preparing for exams and worrying about what the week 
ahead might bring. Without hesitation, we called Drew, and he showed up 
with our favorite flavor of ice cream as well as our favorite brand of popcorn.

What I realize is that it wasn’t about the warm cup of tea for the ride home orthe ice cream delivered to our door. It was about the gesture. It is a reminder 
that there is more to life than exams; there are people who care and they give us what we need to carry on and find peace in the moment.  

We don’t always have to buy people gifts, hand deliver ice cream or know
the perfect thing to say. I think being a good friend and a kind person is 
spreading kindness in a way you know how. Spread a little more kindness
in more moments each day and maybe they will be received as what 
someone needs to keep going or find joy or hope in the moment.

Let’s serve those we love through kindness, and let’s be kind as an act of
service to those around us.

There is a quote that says, "Sprinkle kindness everywhere like confetti.” 
I can see why kindness is seen this way, but maybe we don’t need to take
on sole responsibility for giving out kindness like its air or throwing it
like it's confetti. Maybe it is enough to know that if we all sprinkle a little 
bit every day, together, we can reach the world with our confetti. Let’s 
commit to showing kindness in a way we know how, or at least showing 
it somehow each day.

How can we show everyday kindness? How will you build others up in their time of need? When did someone show you kindness? 
How can you pass it on?

Stationed Beneath the Rising Sun,
Grace Taylor

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Dear Kegan

I’ve doubted myself.

Through the ups and downs of the last couple years, there is always a part of me that questions what I’m doing. Learning, through trial and error, that I need to sit down and write out my emotions to understand them has helped me. In FFA, I was introduced to the concept of a letter-to-self. As a college freshman, here’s what one looks like for me today.

I can still feel what I felt when I was in 9th grade, exactly four years ago. I had just found out that I tore my ACL on the football field. I was out for the season. There were no thoughts rushing through my head at the time; it just felt like:

A mistake.

I had looked forward to football all summer; now I was just a freshman who couldn’t cut it. Throughout the rest of the year, I didn’t know how to deal with the stress and anxiety I had. I didn’t even recognize it. I felt like I was stumbling through the school day looking for purpose, with only a few people reaching out to help me stand my ground. I was introverted, too shy to ask for any help. I was afraid I would look stupid in front of people whose respect I desperately wanted.

A mistake.

This is the part of the story I remember well. It’s what happened after that I forget.

Then a pair of juniors asked me to join the FFA fish and wildlife team. They tracked me down in school. They called me by name: Kegan. They respected me. They didn’t know it, but they helped me gain a foothold, and I felt as though I could finally climb.

Right now, I am typing up this letter for you, me, somewhere in the future. I want you to remember the feeling I am having and understand where it comes from.

I am starting college and entering uncharted territory in my life. As I move forward, I want to be more like those juniors who helped me find my way in 9th grade. I don’t have to give amazing life advice to someone to make their day better. If I do something small every day to help someone see their potential, I will have made a difference I can be confident in.

Lately, I haven’t been confident in many of the small decisions I’ve made.

One decision I’ve been doubting is a recent goal: to create a positive social media post every day. Each time, though, there is a voice in the back of my mind saying, “you should have said ‘this’ not ‘that’” and “no one even looks at this.” It feels like my goal was...

A mistake.

The reason I wrote this letter to self was because of this doubt. I felt the same way as I did in 9th grade, but I had forgotten the end of the story. Those juniors had no idea they were doing anything out of the ordinary, but their simple action led me to join FFA. They inadvertently gave me the spark I needed to find a passion.

I like to create; that’s why I choose this specific goal. The process of getting inspired - writing out my idea, planning what camera shots would look cool, how I would edit the photos or videos, and letting the anticipation of the final product build - fuels me. Unfortunately, I always see people doing it so much better than I ever could, and I doubt myself and my goal. In that moment, I lose sight of why I made the goal in the first place: If I can help even one person, if I can make their day marginally better, then all the work I put into it paid off.

With the school year beginning, I’d like to challenge everyone to make a goal which will help someone else. This might mean personally inviting an underclassmen to an FFA meeting, reaching out to some inactive members and asking them to come to the region’s fall leadership camp, or even smiling in the hallways. It doesn’t need to be big, but something to be built on.

How many people you affect does not matter, what matters is that you do.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

"I have barbarbque sauce on my shirt too"

In one of my rabbit holes, deep into YouTube, I stumbled upon Kid President. He says it all when it comes to character and modern society. Intrigued, I click on video called, “Kid President’s 20 Things We Should Say More Often” and watch the video. One saying stood out to me clearly, “I have barbecue sauce on my shirt too.” He briefly explained we can admit to having barbeque sauce on our shirts too. Confused? Let me explain.

First of all, I can relate to this on a physical level. For the past year, I have failed to keep the toothpaste off my shirt when I am getting ready.  Every day, I get done brushing my teeth, look in the mirror, and see the mark of toothpaste on my shirt. But I never really have time to change, so I set about my day. Usually, I receive comments throughout the day about the accidental mark on my shirt, but I shrug it off and focus back on my tasks. You see the people who would tell about the stain on my shirt would never look at their shirt first. They simply would point out my misfortune and go about their day. Now, I am not saying we shouldn’t tell others if they have toothpaste on their shirt. Simply, we should look at our own stains before judging others.
My teamates and I struggling to not stain our clothing from the delious pork chops at Farm Fest from the Minnesota Farm Bureau stand.

We all have eaten barbeque and that stuff is messy. Countless times, the sauce misses my plate and hits my jeans (luckily my mother is a wizard at getting out stains). But what if we look past the physical level of stains and think more of them in an emotional level. Often, we hide our mistakes and problems from others. We are too afraid to show them our faults but why? We have made mistakes. However, those make us human, and no one is perfect at everything like we pretend to be. Once we admit to our faults, we can become closer to the ones around us. When we all admit to the mistakes or accept the “barbeque sauce” on our shirts, we all will be honest with each other.

However, not all stains can be negative. Take a volleyball player for example; they have black and blue bruised knees from diving and lunging for sets, saves and passes. They may be different from the swollen wrists and shoulders of a tennis player, but they show their hard work and passion. We only see the bruises and stains as glorious when we look up to or admire them. If we're to look at ourselves, we would see our own bruises and stains of glory. We can find value in ourselves as well as those around us. When we take a moment to look at our bruises, we see we are not all that different.

Together we rally around our barbeque stains and bruises. We make mistakes and have faults, but together we appreciate others for their mistakes because we, ourselves, have the same stains on our shirts too. Instead of judging someone based on the stains they have, take a moment to look at the stains on our shirt. We can love each other for our mistakes and fortunes.

Want to learn even more? Check out the full video at:

Stationed by the Flag,
Lauralee Eaton

Monday, September 10, 2018


Image result for new prague mn We have to be careful about the words we use. Even though the first paragraph is completely accurate, the continual use of the word just gives the entire thing a negative connotation. Compared to the second paragraph where I changed some of the language to make it more positive and understandable. Sure, some of the words changed, but in all reality, it comes down to one word - just.

I am just a kid from New Prague, Minnesota. It’s just a town of about 8,000 people. I went to Belle Plaine High School, where we have just one Agricultural Education/Industrial Technology Teacher. I just played basketball until freshman year and baseball until junior year. Otherwise, I was just in FFA.

I am from New Prague, Minnesota, a town of about 8,000 people. I graduated from Belle Plaine High School, where we have a teacher that has the ability to teach both Agricultural Education and Industrial Technology classes. I enjoyed playing basketball until I reached my freshman year of high school. During my junior year, my priorities shifted, and I didn’t play baseball after that. I was a dedicated and heavily involved FFA member.
Which of these paragraphs are better? Why? Just take a second to think about that.
In both paragraphs I stated facts. I talked about where I grew up and about my high school life. There was a difference though. One word was consistently used - just.
Image result for farmfest 2018
A few weeks ago, at Farmfest near Morgan, Minnesota, I heard over and over again people say, “I’m just a crop farmer” or “I’m just …” No one is just anything. Everyone has an important job; that is why it's a job. That crop farmer, he feeds the world. That school janitor; he cleans the school so that students can learn in a clean environment. That nurse; he personally cares for the patient and supports the doctors and their work.
Just is a word I don’t like. However, this idea was introduced to me by the President of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, Kevin Paap. During one of the State Officer Professional Development days, he asked, Why use the word just? It is completely unnecessary. There are better words to describe any situation than the word just. No one is just anything, so let’s make sure everyone understands they have a place and job that is important, not only to themselves, but to society. It might be awkward, but answer back, “excuse me, but I don’t think you’re just anything. Being a ______ is important. I appreciate what you do.” Everyone wants to hear validation and stopping them from putting themselves down is something we should all strive to do.

Stationed by the Door,
H. James Mathiowetz

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Some Commitment Required

I’ve always loved all you can eat buffets. First off, who doesn’t like walking up to long rows of steaming hot food, chilled salads, and desserts of all kinds knowing you can have as much as you want of whatever you want?! And even better, if you like something, you can have more. If you don’t, you don’t have to take any more. No commitment required.

This last week at NDSU, we had our Involvement Expo. Organizations filled a street with tables showcasing their groups. As you walk by, it’s not mashed potatoes or apple pie like you find at a buffet calling your name, it’s cut-throat recruiters fighting for your attention and time. Some had plinko boards while others had candy, pens, or t-shirts. All in an effort to draw people in so they could “seal the deal.”  Not surprisingly, only a small percentage of people who walked by the booths signed up to receive more information and even less will commit.

Talking with FFA members this summer at conferences, I heard a pretty common concern among chapter leaders: member recruitment, retention, and engagement. They have a hard time recruiting as many new members as they’d like, finding members to fill office positions, or even getting current members to sign up for events. It’s one of those things everyone thinks is just a problem in their chapter and nowhere else (I did too), but it’s not. And it’s not just a concern in Minnesota FFA. It happens in churches, community groups, collegiate organizations, and in people’s social lives and relationships. People fear commitment.

Now, I’m not saying that everyone who signed up to receive more information at the NDSU Involvement Expo should commit to that club. It’s possible many people who received information will decide the club doesn’t offer what they want and won’t commit. Great! However, that begs the question, why will so many people not commit when a club/organization/activity/relationship seems perfect for them?

I’ve found a few common themes.
1.         They don’t know your (fill in the blank club/organization/activity/relationship) IS perfect for them YET.
2.         They have FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out.
3.         They fear failure.

If you’re a recruiter, these three things can stop you from finding people to commit, or you can reflect on these themes to help you know why people will tell you no before they can get the excuses out of their mouths!  

Category 1: I don’t think this is for me.  These individuals are usually pretty easy to identify. If this is the case, you’re in luck! You can help people discover the reasons why they can benefit from whatever it is you are offering whether it be through advertising, promotional products, or meaningful conversations. You can showcase the successes of your group and tell people how they can personally benefit from being a part of it. If you were at a SLCCL, think back on the activity where each table had to recruit potential students. The key is to find what they care about first and then help them find their place.

Category 2: I am too busy. People who fall into group two can come from all walks of life. They can be the “high achievers” who are involved in a lot of things, have high grades, and are highly sought after. They might say no because they’re just too busy. Remember, saying yes to you means they should say no to someone else (you might want to refer back to step one and try to get them to commit to your organization over whatever they are currently committing to). They could also be people who might not have plans but want to wait before committing in case a better offer comes around.

Category 3: I don’t want to fail. Fear of failure is probably the hardest to pick up on because they probably won’t actually say those exact words. Someone might say they’re “not smart enough,” “it would never work out,” or “I could never do that.” Notice that they don’t usually say “I can’t currently do….” They see the CAN’T as a long-term barrier instead of seeing their ability to learn and grow. Most organizations, and especially FFA, focus on taking people from where they are to somewhere they once thought was impossible.

If you’re not recruiting or looking for people to commit to you or your organization (and even if you are), I think it’s valuable to take some time to look at what we commit to and why we do or don’t commit to things. Our personal understanding could help us or help others.  We only have so many hours, minutes, and seconds of our lives, and unfortunately, life isn’t a buffet. For everything we say yes to, we say no to many other things. In most cases, some commitment is required! As this school year starts, take time to discover where you fit best, know that you’ll miss out on other things that aren’t a fit for you, and put your fears aside.

You’ll be amazed at what can happen!

Stationed by the emblem of Washington,

Adam Kroll