**This article was originally published at nebraskaffa.wordpress.com by me on November 16th, 2016.**
I had the opportunity to go to an EDGE conference in Gothenburg last week. It was a GREAT day spent with FFA members from District 9. At the end of the day a member named Alexis gave me a picture she drew of me. The first thing that I noticed was the big smile the girl in the drawing had. So then I really did realize that I was almost always smiling in this beautiful blue jacket of mine. Actually, whenever I was around FFA members I usually wore a smile. I asked myself why. It wasn’t the jackets, it wasn’t the emblem, it wasn’t even the agriculture or the leadership. The smile on my face is all because of the members that I am lucky enough to meet, the members like Alexis.
I remember watching the state officers throughout high school with so much awe and respect. But in all honesty, the only thing that’s changed since being elected is the back of my jacket. I am still amazed at FFA members day in and day out. Every member I meet teaches me or inspires me. My dad sends me five to six inspirational quotes every day while he eats lunch and one of my favorites reads, “every person you meet knows something you don’t know.” But I’ve found that this quote doesn’t break the surface of the potential that we begin to grasp when we reach our hand to a person we have yet to meet.
Once a week I eat lunch with my friend Miranda, who happens to be majoring in the language of Russian. Often times she will say simple words in Russian and I will struggle to repeat them. By the end of the semester, I hope to be able to hold a short conversation with her in the Slavic language. One of my new friends named Morgan is a senior, and we share a lot of the same interests. I love spending time with her because I know I have so much to learn from her experiences and the skills she has developed from her time in high school. I recently visited my high school and as I walked through the halls I found bits of inspiration from the only senior who went out for volleyball this year. Although their season didn’t appear to be a “win” I am confident that under Sloane’s leadership, every member of the team walked away “winning.” She shows me what grit looks like on what seems to be a downward slope. You see, I am constantly learning from the people that I am lucky to have in my life.
But wait, there’s more. Knowledge and experience are not even the most valuable thing we gain from meeting new people. From one look on our way to class, my friend Kensie can tell if my emotional tank is running low, and she immediately fills me up with hope and energy. The guidance of my mentors is what keeps my path clear. My roommate and neighbors are always providing me with laughs and comfort. Without these people in my life, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
My point isn’t to show you how incredibly blessed I am. My point is that the single most valuable thing we can create, nourish, and protect in our lifetime is human relationships. We all know we can’t take material items with us when we go. But let’s face it, we can’t even take our friends and family when we go. Let’s shift our focus instead, on what we leave behind us when we go. We can leave a long list of cars, cattle, and combines, but is that what people really remember us for? What about our character, our kindness, and our ability to communicate and connect with another human being?
FFA members, advisors, friends, and family, I am asking you to do something. Don’t ever take for granted the life of another person. I am not even talking about the physical breath and blood of a person. Every person you meet comes to you with different ideas, feelings, experiences, and values as you. What if you left that interaction with new ideas, a new understanding of your feelings, shared experiences, and empowered values? I believe, that is what each person has to offer you if you choose to invest in them.
Let’s strive to find what motivates us to be a person who seeks out new relationships. For me, it’s the blue jacket. The blue jacket inspires me to seek goodness in myself and the people around me. Often times, I’ll be sitting in a class at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and I’ll see someone who looks familiar. When this happens I close my eyes for a second and I try to imagine that person in an FFA jacket. Most of the time when I do this the lightbulb flashes on and I realize that the reason they look familiar is because they were also an FFA member. What a wonderful way to start a meaningful conversation. It’s amazing what these blue jackets are able to do for us. Let’s be present in our lives, in and out of our FFA official dress, by making the most out of the people who we are lucky to have in our lives. Let’s think beyond the earthly riches when we ask ourselves, “What will I leave, when I go?”