Monday, December 19, 2016

Discovering "Why I'm In It"

The chalkboard that inspired volunteers in the Crothersville Agriculture Classroom

“Good morning! Today we will be delivering 8.13 TONS of food to 96 families in the Crothersville community, along with 150 cheer baskets. I hope we have a wonderful day! – Deven Lemen”

As my teammates and I walk into the warm, Crothersville agriculture classroom, we read this mindblowing statement written on the chalkboard. It’s a cold, icy, Saturday morning, but the energy and passion in Crothersville High School made it feel like the warmest place on the planet. We had been requested to go to a service project, and all we knew about the event is that we were delivering food and that there MAY be the opportunity to ride on a firetruck.

A photo with our team and Crothersville FFA Officer Team!
A few of the amazing chapter officers explain that this is the 28th annual FFA Food and Toy Drive and that we would be delivering boxes of nonperishable foods, hams, eggs, milk, and fruit to families in need in the Crothersville community.

As the day goes on, we make a few deliveries, and return back to school to warm up with some hot chocolate. I had no idea that the next delivery we would make will change my outlook on life forever.

We pull into the driveway of a house and we begin to load the boxes of food and toys into the back of a car, as directed by the woman on the porch and the man helping us load. The delivery seemed so normal, until I go to deliver the letter to the woman on the porch. I reach out to shake her hand and as I look into her face, I see tears welling up in her eyes. Immediately I join her on the porch and give her a hug. In this moment there was no one else in the world, just this woman and I. She sobs and thanks me, saying I’m a blessing, but as I pull away from the hug with tears welling in my eyes, I realize that she is the true blessing.

She is practically a stranger to me, but little does she know she has inspired me to serve selflessly each and every day of my life. As I walk away crying, the firefighter looks at me and says “this is why we’re in it.”

I later found out that this family had recently experienced a loss only a week before, and I honestly could not believe that I had the honor to play such a small part in making this family’s Christmas just a little brighter.

This feeling of realizing “why you’re in it” has made me realize that this year of service to Indiana FFA is nothing compared to what I can give in my entire life, the desire and passion to serve that I have left in me. Thank you Crothersville FFA chapter for giving me the opportunity to serve, and to impact someone’s life in such a small way.

Inspired to serve,

Jessica Mars
2016-2017 Indiana FFA State President

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

What I Learned From That Thing On My Wrist

One of my very first encounters with hundreds of Indiana FFA members was on our journey throughout the state during the month of September for District Kickoff season.  At each district, we promoted our newest program for the Indiana FFA Foundation called the “Pay-It-Forward Campaign”, which focuses on raising enough funds to pay off the mortgage of the Indiana FFA Leadership Center.

In an effort to promote the program, our team created a video of “101 Reasons to Love the Leadership Center”.  One specific reason that was given to us by FFA members was the bridge that links the Conference Center to the back of the property near the boys’ cabins.  The team and I decided that I would skip across the bridge in a very excited fashion for that section of our video – so I did just that.  I was excited and bubbly, until… FitBit got caught on my jeans and plopped into the lake.  As I watched the FitBit fly into the air and sink into the water, I yelped and ruined that whole section of the filming.  

Watch it for yourself - the FitBit flies off of my right arm...right into the lake:

While I was deeply upset by what I thought was a huge loss, my team and I decided to include this portion in our overall video, but instead of dedicating it to ‘The Bridge’, we used it as a way to portray ‘Giving Up Technology for a Weekend’ while FFA members spend time growing as leaders.  As nearly 2,000 FFA members watched this video, that was one thing that stuck out to them.  To this day, members across the state recognize me as the State Officer who lost her FitBit in the lake. 
When I first lost my FitBit, I was disappointed that I would not be able to count the steps for the next few days, track my sleep hours, and, most importantly, would have to spend another $140 to replace it.  Luckily, the company replaced it for free, so I lucked out in that aspect.  But, looking back, I lucked out in many more areas.  That one event that I thought was a devastation really lead to a memory that my team and I will never forget.  It opened my eyes to the fact that materialistic items such as a smart watch will never replace the moments when FFA members can laugh with you about something silly that happened. 
I was a bit excited when my new FitBit came in the mail!
The most important lesson that my FitBit taught me, however, was that it wasn’t the daily steps that truly counted; it was the memories and irreplaceable moments that did.  Materialistic items control our daily lives these – we spend hours on our cell phones, we couldn’t live without our FitBits and Apple Watches, and we have to drive the best of the best car.  But, are we truly living the best lives? At times, I get so caught up in social media that I forget how to have an actual conversation with someone.  There are other times where I become so jealous of someone else, that I forget to be appreciative of what I have.

When I spend time with family and friends, my eyes are way too often locked on my phone screen, when the reality should be that my ears are locked on what words of advice they are sharing. In a world filled with technology, I want to encourage you to take a few moments each day to truly engage with those around you.  Make cherishable memories that will last a lifetime. Get rid of your “FitBits” of the world, and start truly living.

Soaking up the little moments,
Chaela Minor
2016-2017 Indiana FFA State Secretary

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Advice From An Owl

     Make a mental list of the things you’re involved in. Are you in a club? Are you an officer of an organization? Do you have a job? Are you a part of a community service project? Whatever it is that you’re involved with, do you truly enjoy what you’re doing? Think about it for a moment. When you’re in the middle of a meeting, waking up for work, helping others, or doing whatever it is that you do, are you truly loving the effort and dedication that you’re providing?
     This week we had the honor of hosting the Retired Agriculture Teacher’s Luncheon at the Indiana FFA Leadership Center. Let me tell you, I’ve never been in a room with so many elderly, energetic, and passionate people. These retired teachers reconnected with fellow teachers, shared memories that are worth tons, and truly felt at home. As they were sharing their wise words, one retired teacher from Jay County High School, Bob Lyons, said something along the lines of this- if you go to work and you feel like you’re working, you need to find a different job. You should be having fun with your profession and truly enjoy what you’re doing. I let these words soak in for a moment and took them to heart. I realized that what I’m doing right now in life, doesn’t feel like work at all. It feels more like happiness, passion, and dedication.
     As we all know, teachers are some of the wisest people to walk this earth. They truly transform their purpose into action when they take a shy and reserved student and make them the best speaker or communicator in the school. Or when they take a lost student and give them purpose and hope. They not only have seen the transformation that they initiated, but they are the transformation. Agriculture teachers are the type of people who can give advice in the most random times (like in the greenhouse or shop in the middle of a school day or by a random phone call that wakes you up on a Saturday morning) and it always prove to be true. Part of the advisors opening ceremony even says, “I hope that my advice will always be based off of true knowledge and ripen with wisdom.”
Two of my genuine owls, Mr. Younts and Mrs. Keffaber, who have given me advice since my first day as a FFA member.
     The advice that Mr. Lyons gave are some of the truest words I’ve heard. Not only should we never feel like we’re working in our profession, but we shouldn’t feel like we’re working with anything we do because that is the moment we know that we’re doing it for the right reason. When the long hours put into that club, organization, volunteer work, or anything humble you rather that make you bitter, that’s when you know you’re doing what you love.
     As we go about our days, let’s take a moment to reevaluate the things we do and ask ourselves if we truly do love what we’re doing. If so, that’s fantastic and I hope you continue to stay humble. If not, search for those things that you love and genuinely make you happy. Love what you do and never dismiss advice from an owl.
Happily Living Life,
2016-2017 Indiana FFA State NRVP
Sneha Jogi