Monday, November 17, 2014

Life-Long Learning

            Last Saturday was a busy day for most of us here in the State Officer house. And, when I say most of us that includes everyone except me. I found myself home alone, and without much to do. I didn’t really want to sit alone and watch a movie. I wasn’t hungry. I had already been running earlier that day, and I was tired of working on scholarship applications. So I decided I would kill the rest of the afternoon by paying a visit to the Trafalgar Library. I walked in with my backpack containing all the devices I might need to get some work done should the notion come over me. However, as I found a quiet spot near a window, I didn’t feel like doing any work at all. I set my things down and started wandering aimlessly through the shelves of books. I made my way through the low canyons of books, carelessly skimming the titles as I strode past. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but eventually I found a book that grasped my interest. It was about life in medieval England. Standing there surrounded by countless books, this particular one stood out to me as I thought about the fact that I knew very little about life in medieval England. Satisfied, I grabbed the book, and returned to my seat. For the next hour or so, I skimmed through the book picking up random bits of information on everything from the diet to the social order to the role of the Christian Church in eleventh century England. Later that afternoon, after reading a fair amount of that random book, I left the library feeling satisfied that I knew more than I did when I entered.
 I don’t feel like I know everything about everything. Honestly, I don’t feel like I know everything about anything, but I love the feeling of knowing more than I did previously.  I must admit, I have a habit of going to libraries and picking up random books. Sometimes it’s a book about tax law, or Greek architecture, or renaissance painters, or Islam, or forms of Government around the world. The subject of the book isn’t so important, as long as it provides the opportunity to learn something new. The reason I’m telling you all this isn’t to clue you in on one of my many odd quirks, but to express the idea of being a life-long learner. Being someone who has completed high school, I can state that high school will not teach you everything. There is still a lot out there to learn.
That is why I have created a challenge for myself, and I am now extending it to anyone who reads this. Recently, I have challenged myself to find fifteen minutes every day to get on the internet or open a book, and learn something new. Some days I spend that fifteen minutes browsing the New York Times leaning about current events. Some days I come up with a random question like: what was Julius Caesar’s childhood like? Then I google it, and try to come up with an answer. Some days that fifteen minutes is much more than fifteen minutes, and it is spent in a library looking for books on topics that I don’t know much about. Regardless of how you spend those fifteen minutes, I simply challenge you to find them, utilize them, and learn. Try to learn something every day, and become a true life-long learner. 

Jacob Mueller
2014-2015 Southern Region Vice President

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Disease of Business

If you would have asked me last week how I was doing, I would have answered with a statement along the lines of being busy and not having enough time to get things accomplished. Come to think of it, I find most of my friends and acquaintances living this very same busy lifestyle almost every day. Today however was different. No major obligations. No important tasks. No timeline or schedule to follow. In this society we all are a part of, it seems that days like today are becoming few and far between.

A typical day in most of our lives looks something like this: wake up far earlier than we’d like, prepare for our day by eating breakfast with the seemingly endless noise of negativity coming from the morning news, drive to work or school later than we had planned, sit through our day for hours on end, drive home thinking of all we still have to do, complete some form of “homework” (supper, dishes, school work, etc), and try and catch some rest before this cycle begins all over again the very next day…and the day after that…and so on and so forth.

Today, while being caught bored and making tasks to accomplish to occupy my time, a thought began to form in my head. How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Let’s look back at a typical day in the life of me, Derek Berkshire. Kicking around a soccer ball, making the world’s greatest mud pies (you all know you’re guilty of making a few in your day too), climbing trees, creating the next famous work of art using my unique art supplies…crayons, building forts throughout the house, and living in my self-created world. I had no agenda. No responsibilities. No schedule dictating my actions.

Don’t get me wrong, I am well aware that this life I now live, a more adult life with actual responsibilities, is vastly different from that of my youth. However, what changed to make my life and perhaps yours too, one with a seemingly endless to-do list, so different from the life I once lived? When did a family supper, a meaningful conversation with a friend, random trips to the movies, spontaneous phone calls, game nights, and all of those other “past times” we used to partake in become inferior to the life we now live? The life full of obligations, bills, paperwork, house cleaning, schedules, meetings, jobs, and so much more.

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just…be? For me it’s a multitude of things. Technology, the natural pace of society, deadlines. It seems that we have created a world in which we must have no down time in order to feel satisfied; yet, at one point in our lives we felt content with the simplicities that now escape that very same person.

It’s true; life has evolved. To a certain extent, we are forced to live a life full of actions in order to succeed or make ends meet. Our lives are full of schedules and lists and a plethora of other occurrences. Perhaps, we must live this newly evolved life void of mud pies and crayons. Perhaps, down time simply is ceasing to exist. Regardless, the question remains. How are you doing?

As I sat around the house in sweats and soaking in the boredom that my day off allowed, I realized something. Maybe, just maybe, this question of “How are you doing?” isn’t asking what I initially thought. Maybe, it’s instead asking “How are you…how is your heart…how is your soul…how are you?”

With that question in mind, I would have answered this way: I am a busy human being. “Being” used with extraordinary care. No, I’m not a human doing despite my phone, laptop, to-do lists, and schedules being used each and every day. You see, it’s all about attitude really. Those healing conversations, that connection with my friends and family, the fact that I’m doing what I love…that is what makes today—along with every day—great. So go ahead, with that in mind, ask me. How am I doing? I know what I’ll say. I am too busy and feel there is not enough time to get things accomplished but that’s okay, I am doing great. How are you doing?

Hoping your day is great,
Derek Berkshire2014-2015 Indiana FFA State Sentinel 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Attitude is Everything

When I woke up this morning I decided I would make today great! Not for a particular reason other than I just wanted to. It was not until I was in the drive thru at a fast food restaurant that I realized attitude is everything.
This is something that most would think to be common sense. You’re probably thinking, “well yeah, duh, I already know this”. But no, seriously. I realize that attitude can determine a lot of things throughout our lives but attitude is something that I seem to overlook in most situations.
When I was in the drive thru this morning, I was cheerfully greeted by the lady on the other side of the intercom. She welcomed me by saying, “Good morning, how may I help you?” This is the usual for most fast food restaurants but it was different this time. The words were the same but the tone of the lady's voice was genuine and real. She seemed thoroughly excited to be alive and awake this morning! Instantly I began to smile as soon as I heard her enthusiastic voice.
I placed my $1.83 order of Cinnabon Delights (they are delicious, try them sometime, completely worth every penny!) and I proceeded to the window to give the spirited lady my money. Just as I had imagined, she was just as friendly at the window as she was through the intercom. She greeted me with a smile and repeated the amount that I owed. I gave her the money and she handed me my little bag of heaven. She told me to have a great day and I responded with a smile and a, “thank you, you too!”
Because of this lady's energetic and vivacious attitude, this helped me carry on my optimistic attitude for the day ahead. I truly believe that the woman at the restaurant loved her job and because of that she possibly has brightened the day of everyone who goes through the drive thru.
As I proceeded to Starbucks to work on a few things, I had a seat in the corner. An older man named Steve came in the door and instantly was greeted by name by the people behind the counter. He came over and had a seat across from me. Instantly he began having a conversation with me about how often he has seen me at Starbucks (I’m guilty), and he joked with me and told me that as long as I don’t take his seat then we will both be okay. It was obvious he was a regular. As he continuously joked with the folks that were working, we talked about everything from politics to what I planned on majoring in in college. We talked about his years in the Army and at the downtown post office to his dreams of moving down south. We talked about his dogs to beautiful places to go to in Indiana. We talked about his planned vacation with his family and about his retirement. He talked about his grandson who he proudly boasted about and he talked about fishing while listening to all of his tunes on his iPad.
Before Steve left he told me to have a great day and he asked me a few questions about FFA. After a few more minutes of talking with others at Starbucks he was on his way out the door to go hunt down a gas cap for his lawn mower. I’m pretty sure Steve doesn’t know a stranger! Steve loves life and he loves people. Whether he’s at Starbucks on his iPad or texting his friends when he’s supposed to be finding a gas cap for his lawn mower because his wife told him to or whether he is meeting new people and striking up conversation with strangers, Steve makes every day a great day with his wise, optimistic and amusing attitude!
So what kind of attitude will you have today? Will you let one frustrating or upsetting situation determine the attitude of your entire day ahead? If you forgot your homework, struggled on a test, was told some bad news about an ill family member, had a flat tire, woke up with a cold, didn’t have your coffee this morning, only got a few hours of sleep, or maybe you had no reason but you just woke up in a bad mood out of habit, face the day with a smile on your face! Try to determine your attitude first thing in the morning as soon as you take that first step out of bed, just know that today will be great!
Be thankful for every single day of life that you are blessed with! Everyone has had their struggles and no one can absolutely understand what someone else is going through. Do not let the arrogance of others bring you down. “Let your smile change the world. But never let the world change your smile.”
Serving with a grateful heart,
Brittany Young
Indiana FFA
State President




Friday, October 24, 2014

If These Walls Could Talk.


If these walls could talk what story might they tell?
Would they share the story of an industry that has changed? An industry that has grown and adapted? Would they share the story of an industry that, no matter the circumstance, can rise from the ashes and meet the challenge of feeding, clothing, and supporting a growing world, an industry that believes in the power of its youth?
In 1988, out of the pole framework of a barn, and because of the efforts of volunteer agriculture teachers, emerged the Indiana FFA State Officer House.
The house has provided a foundation for food, faith, and family for 26 teams.
If these walls could talk they would share the stories of the legends that have spent their days in the house. Outstanding individuals like National FFA Presidents Mark Timm, 1989-1990, and Travis Park, 1990-1991or Indiana’s last National Officer Tyler Tenbarge in 2006-2007.  
They would express the joy of housing members like, Lisa Moss Chaudion, Indiana FFA’s first female State President and Advisor, or Joe Kelsey, former Director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture
Throughout its history, 3 Indiana FFA Executive Directors, 3 Indiana FFA Foundation Directors, all Program Specialists, and 26 agriculture teachers have called these walls their home.
These walls would share about individuals who entered the doors of the house and grew to be top of their class graduates, student body Presidents’, business leaders, scientists, lobbyists, and key proponents for agriculture.
If these walls could talk, would they speak of individuals who joined as one not for the sake of themselves, but for the future of an organization?
They would scream out the story of how seven completely different individuals could learn to love, to grow, and to serve.
They would speak of tears of fear, of joy, tears of frustration, tears of empathy, tears of happiness, tears for knowing that you are part of something more.
They have been onlookers for the thrill of victory and the sigh of defeat. They would express lessons learned, plans that fell through, and teams that pushed on no matter what.
They would share the moments of sadness, the moments the officers struggled, or when the loss of a member of friend shook the team to its core.
They would be sure to include the hysterical times; the times when officers stayed up late watching movies, or the constant bickering of loving siblings. They would share the times when officers, members, family, and State Staff gathered and shared a time of comradery.
They would include the emptiness that is felt each and every year as the team becomes busier and time in the house just seems impractical.
They would share the stories of that first night, that last night, and all those nights in between.
These walls have supported numerous forms of life from insects, animals, and humans alike.
If these walls could talk, they would elaborate on the layers of paint on them or the assortment of decorations that have covered them.
They would speak of dust and construction that has begun to fill the air.
These walls themselves have begun to crumble. These walls have barred their load for years, and are starting to feel their age.
The voice of these walls grows old and weary. It slows its pace and slurs its words. These walls have been moved and changed, but their story stays the same.
Each year these walls feel the tremble of new feet chasing each other through their halls. They sense the passion that can only be felt in the weakest of hours.
They would speak of new beginnings, the beginnings of each team and the fresh breath that they bring to the house, the new spark that waits to make its impact.
They would speak of the stargaze eyes that bombarded the house each march, eyes of capable individuals dreaming of making these walls their home.
Over the last 26 years these walls have been spectators, observers of the pride, honor, and humbling passion held by each Indiana FFA State Officer that has lived in this house.
These walls would whisper the secrets of the “incredible perfection” that is created by an organization that puts youth at the forefront.
As I sit here today, housed, protected, and humbled by these walls, I wonder if these walls could talk what stories would they tell.
Oh, if these walls could talk, what story would they tell?
Living to Serve,
Skylar Clingan
2014-2015 Indiana FFA Secretary





Monday, October 13, 2014

Red Acres is the Place For Me

The worn leather under my hands…high above the world I was perched overlooking the vast hay field. The trees where brilliant reds, yellows and oranges. The air was fresh, it smelled like burning leaves and diesel fuel. Fall was upon us. As I took a trip around my Papole Kent’s farm (Red Acres) I remember searching the field that butted up to my papole’s property. In the distance, a combine was shelling beans and dust was flying everywhere. As the combine collected the beans I thought of numerous by-products that might come from the crop. As the Farmall BN and I rounded the other side of the field I couldn't help but feel the responsibility of farmers. Harvest season is my favorite time of the year. 

Back home in Northern Indiana! 

From a young age I learned how to operate my papole’s tractors, in fact I could drive tractors before I could ride my bike without training wheels. I could not get enough of the rush I felt high above the earth, hearing the sound the tractor made and smelling the ever so prominent diesel fuel. My papole has restored tractors ever since I can remember and only the red ones. His work ethic was a hard one and it showed in all of his tractors. The tractors bonded papole and I. The heritage that existed was intertwined in the frame work of each tractor. The Farmall BN that I was driving previously was my Great Grandpa’s. My papole would tell me of stories about the BN. He told about when my great grandpa first purchased it, how the dents got certain places and how diligently the tractor worked. A staple part of the farm and a piece of history to share with his 4th generation great granddaughter. 

This is my Papole Kent and I going on the many tractors ride I would take when I was little! 

Now that farmers are out harvesting, memories stir up from those long tractors rides. Taking walks down the road and admiring the changing crops. Spending time with family, friends and enjoying the beautiful fall season. No matter what part you reside in this fly over state we all know the importance of farmers and admire their tireless work to feed the world. As we drive past the farmers taking the combines another round remember how blessed we are to have such committed producers. I would like to give a shout out to those producers making the food on my table possible. I love farmers, they feed my soul.

Taken in Southern Indiana near the FFA Leadership Center. 

You Ag Lovin' and Farmall Driving Indiana FFA NRVP,

Love Lindsey O'Hara

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

SOARing into Fall

Is it possible for it to be October already? That does not seem possible! Like Dakota previously said, the team and I just completed three weeks of chapter visits and district kickoffs! We met so many members from across the state and getting to experience all of the different agriculture education programs was amazing!
On Saturday, October 4th, Kathleen and I adventured down to Scottsburg, Indiana to watch the Scottsburg FFA Fall Prospect Beef Show! Congratulations to the Scottsburg FFA Chapter for working so hard and diligently to make this show successful! Kathleen and I not only got to watch the show and talk with a few FFA members, we also ran into the 2013-2014 Southern Region Vice President- Ethan McNeely! It’s always good to see Ethan!
 This week at the Leadership Center, the team and I are preparing for SOAR, or Seeking Opportunities Achieving Results. This conference is directed toward 7th-10th grade students. IT IS A BLAST! If you signed up to come, you will not regret it! This is a great time for members to get to know people from all over our state. Everyone is split up into different groups so that they have the opportunity to take a step outside of their comfort zone to make some new friends! The great thing about making friends at this conference is that, more than likely, you will see these new friends at FFA events in the future!

As we are finishing up our last minute preparations so that we know this weekend will be the best it can possibly be. Just know that I cannot wait to see everyone! The team and I will be revealing the theme shortly, so be looking for that on all forms of social media! Come prepared and ready to have the time of your life at SOAR 2014! 

Serving with a grateful heart,

Brittany Young
Indiana FFA
State President

The Differences that Matter Most

           It was 6 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. I was driving; my passengers were all asleep.  It was dark, and I was tired. We were somewhere in the seemingly endless Northern half of the state. It was another day of chapter visits, fast food, and district kickoffs. As I drove, I turned the radio off as to not wake up my teammates. The silence combined with the dark created an eerie emptiness all around me. My thoughts were as loud as voices, with no actual voices to dampen them. The hum of the engine kept time as I stared ceaselessly at the horizon my headlights created. The drive wore on. I wore on. Pushing a swath through the undisturbed darkness with my high beams, like any plow-fitted truck pushing through a freshly fallen snow. For miles I illuminated a canyon with walls of corn stalks rising up on each side. Eventually, my course led me onto the main street of one of Indiana’s innumerable tiny towns. A hardware store, a rundown gas station, and one solitary flashing light, these are what they all seemed to share. I had noted these characteristics as I had been through countless other nameless little towns in my travels. I pressed on through the town, my headlights providing brief glimpses of the houses on either side of the street, brief glimpses of the people’s lives who occupied this little town. Again, the hum of the engine kept a rhythm as my thoughts swirled about me, and I began to contemplate the people of those tiny nameless towns.
            I had gone my entire life never knowing this town –which I was now driving through—even existed. I was willing to wager that most of the world would live and die having never known that this little one-flashing-light town in Northern Indiana existed. With that, most people on Earth would never know that any of the people in this little town even existed. I was startled by the thought. I was even a bit scared by it. These tiny people in this tiny town could disappear, and the world would be none the wiser. And what’s more, I too was a tiny person, having come from a similar tiny town. I too could disappear along with all the other occupants of my tiny little town, and the world would know no differently. That was a terrible thought. The idea that most people on Earth would never know I existed terrified me.
            As I continued to drive, I soon left the little town in the darkness in which I’d found it. And although it was now behind me, it was still very much in the forefront of my mind. The longer I drove, the longer I thought. Light eventually broke over the horizon, painting the sky every hue of red and pink and orange. At the same time a new perspective broke within me. Why should I worry about whether the majority of people on Earth know I existed? There are a few people who will know, and if I am able to impact those few people positively then for what else can I ask? So many of us—tiny people from tiny towns all across the world—will not be remembered or even known by most of the population. But, some will have known us. Perhaps it would be in vain to try and change the lives of every person on Earth, but we can change the lives of some. We may not make a difference to everyone, but we can make a difference to some. We can make a positive difference in the lives of those around us, those who will have known us, and those are the differences that matter most.  

Jacob Mueller
2014-2015 Southern Region Vice President