State fair is one crazy experience. From breakfast with Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellsperman, to lunch with Senator Joe Donnelly, my teammates and I got to have conversations with our state’s finest leaders. After each of these conversations, we could be seen smiling from ear to ear as we excitedly ranted about our experience. We were always fascinated that these fine leaders had taken time out of their day to listen to us. They even shook their heads and smiled as we nervously told them about our future plans! It was great! They took time to listen to what we had to say, and that meant the world to us.
On the second day of the fair, I was on playground duty. As I was picking up some Tonka trucks, I noticed a man wearing a Chicago Bears hat. Being a Green Bay Packers fan, I had to inform him that he had a horrible taste in football teams. Luckily, he was a good sport about it and we discussed the heated rivalry between our teams of choice. Our conversation turned from football, to my hometown, and ended on the topic of FFA. We each shared stories while the other one listened intently. As I walked away, he thanked me for taking time to talk to him.
A few days later, I was sitting in the animal wing selling carrots. A man working at the AgrAbility booth walked over to introduce himself to me. One thing led to another and then he began to share with me the reasons why he was advocating for disabled farmers. His story was incredible. He was a burn victim. The only part of his body that was covered by his own skin was his face. I was fascinated at what this man had been through. I did not get to say much during our conversation, but I could tell that the man just needed someone to talk to.
The next day, as I was sitting in the Caddyshack, an old man approached me. I could tell by his worn out, faded overalls that he worked at Pioneer Village. He asked if I was a state officer. I told him I was, and he immediately began telling me stories about FFA back in the day. The old man, Jack, led a delegation of FFA members in a covered wagon from Northern Indiana to Louisville for national convention. This storied wagon still sits at the Leadership Center today. Jack stopped back by the pavilion many times to check in on a project that he had given us. Each time he would tell many of the same stories, but seeing the joy that these stories brought him made it worthwhile.
I learned many lessons during state fair, the importance of listening being the most valuable. Your title does not impact someone’s life, your ability to put their needs before your own, does. Sure, I had to pee during Jack’s long stories, but walking away was not what I wanted to do. I have no way of knowing if my conversations with these people meant anything to them, but I can only assume that they enjoyed me listening to them as much as I enjoyed Sue and Joe listening to me. Small, extraordinary acts change the world. You don’t have to speak to be remembered.
2015-2016 Indiana FFA State Southern Region Vice President