July 15, 2019, I left work after a great evening doing what I love…teaching. It was the county fair bb gun contest which I assumed would be just another night. Then, it happened, I was asked to be in charge of challenges. None of the kiddos had ever challenged their targets before nor their parents, so I taught! I taught how to score, add up scores, and look closely for the rounded edge of the hole to see if the bb broke the line, giving just one more point to the competitor. It was FUN! The last young man to look at his target wanted to challenge, and he won the challenge! He walked away with his shoulders held high. Another day well lived in my career where a young person learned methods, steps, and critical thinking. The 4-H leader that night stepped up to also celebrate the lowest score of the tournament. The young lady had shown the most improvement this year which no score could reflect. I gave thanks for leaders who ‘get it’, and I witnessed it on this special anniversary, the 20th anniversary of my career in Extension. I started my career in Extension on July 15, 1999 in Seward County. Later taking a position as an Educator, August 20, 2012.
I knew I wanted to celebrate through a blog post, but working every night I knew Wednesday, July 16, would be my only chance to reflect and write. Then I had some family commitments and delayed the celebratory blog. I almost gave up writing this, but then I meditated with a song this morning called “>“Wonder Woman” by MK Mueller . The song’s message reminded me to take a moment and do something that brings me joy…writing life’s stories, celebrating life’s blessings.
4-H is truly a team of people whom parents (and often grandparents) choose to have help raise their children. I feel so honored when a parent chooses me to be a part of that team, or entrust a volunteer recruited under my leadership/encouragement/training. When I left the field of ministry in a preschool and a high school program in 1999, I couldn’t imagine a job outside the church could be a ‘calling’. What I found out, is a calling isn’t just about a position, or the organization you call ‘work’. The calling is about being where I needed to be at any moment for others to live out a significant moment in their life. Many people may think this happens around county fair, but rarely for me.
Most of the thank you notes I keep are not general notes of thanks around a contest or event. The notes I keep are the parents who I sat with when they discovered their child was self-harming and reassured them that this too shall pass, and I’ll be there to mentor their child when this episode is over. The moment a young person is about to reach a goal to give a speech, and freeze, and I coached them through their paralysis to winning the contest. It is the father at a shooting sports training who comes up and shakes my hand and says, “you taught me to a better father, no one has ever taught me how to be with my kids”. I do love the moment at county fair when a young person discovers their exhibit (rocket, pie, woodbench) is selected for state fair, and they come find me to tell me. These are the moments of “calling”.
My job is to take research based information from the land-grant university and improve the lives of Nebraskans. The research is the tool we engage to improve the lives, however, I believe it is the relationships that changes lives. Many of us have tools to reach our goals but it is the cheerleaders who encourage us to keep on going, to not give up, those who tell us they believe in our potential that really give the extra boost to change life. Over the past 20 years, my cheerleader squad has been enormous those who have helped me grow and change. The bosses who challenged me; the trainers who took me through powerful programs like Character Counts! and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; the Jr. Leaders who told me I was making a difference; the colleagues who have stood by me through deaths, births, surgeries, birthdays, celebrations, college degrees, successes, and failures; the 4-H Council and Extension Board members who bought into the vision and worked as a team to carry it out; stakeholders who invested dollars and resources into the vision for our best Nebraska; and most of all, my family who chose to live the Extension-life with me.
Is Extension my calling? I have no idea. Has Extension provided opportunities for me to live out my calling? Absolutely. I guess as I write this, I realize I’m not defined by my job, I’m defined by my life’s mission which is to coach others to reach their potential, their goals, their dreams. This can take on the role of a young lady starting a business selling tractors or pillows, a writer working on their next novel, an archer who just wants an arrow on the target, a colleague who is working through a conflict, a young man who wants to start his own goat herd, a 4-H leader wanting to start a club, a future teacher to get their start by teaching a 4-H workshop, an organization president develop a speech about the future, co-teaching with an intern or new co-worker…..I get to be their cheerleader.
When I look back on 20 years, I can definitely define many times when I followed the Lord’s pen and helped write not only my story, but the story of the lives that have impacted my life, my career. So, thank you Lord, and thank you to all of you, that have been a part of these 20 years that have provided me and my family with a good life. I feel blessed to carry out my calling through my career.