“4-H boasts a far more complicated backstory than those blue ribbons would have you believe.” (1) And we all love a complicated backstory, don’t we? The mystery, the plot – and oh! When the plot thickens, we dig in for the good stuff.
Everyone has a backstory. And everything is complicated.
Take this photo for instance.
One of us participated in 4-H. The other did not. Care to take a guess?
Talk about complicated. Things aren’t always what they seem, are they? Farmer (on the left) didn’t have anything to do with 4-H during his childhood, yet wholeheartedly pursued a passion handed down from his father and grandfather – in agriculture. On the other hand, my middle school years were spent with the nickname “Horsemunch” as my fellow public school scholars couldn’t understand why I would spend my evenings and weekends with a horse or with a small group of people learning about everything from how to speak in front of a group to caring for animals.
4-H earned me more than a nickname. 4-H allowed this city kid to experience a world outside my comfort zone, one with activities, events, and relationships that were for the betterment of my character. Sure, it involved animals, but the life lessons went WAY beyond a four-legged project.
4-H means different things across this great nation to different participants. Each region and county are crafted to reflect the interests of the community and participants, led by volunteers who freely give their time and energy.
When I think back to my 4-H leader and the perception as a child, I see a blunt, fearless woman who made me get back up again when I toppled off a horse. I see her telling – not asking – me to go clean the stalls. I see fierce determination in her eyes as she talked me through the how-to of a new task that I didn’t understand.
The falls brought perseverance.
The stalls brought perspective.
The new tasks brought personal growth.
And now, looking back as an adult, I see a woman struggling to make ends meet in her own family. I see a blunt, fearless woman who raised a child with severe special needs while giving selflessly to the youth in her community. I think back and see fierce purpose in her eyes as she took me out to the local burger drive-in after a particularly taxing lesson, and the comfortable silence as we talked about the quality of the tater tots, middle school drama, and why falling down isn’t the end of our story.
Her story is echoed across this nation in the time and talent of adults that give feely to support a national youth organization whose mission is to “help young people and their families gain the skills needed to be proactive forces in their communities and develop ideas for a more innovative economy.” (2)
Her perseverance taught perspective.
Her perspective brought personal growth.
I, along with the hundreds of thousands of current and former 4-H members, are indebted to an organization that makes a difference in every state across this great nation with agriculture as the venue. And yes, United States, you are an indebted nation to 4-H.
Thank you, 4-H.
1: McColl, Sarah. 4-H: Indoctrination Nation. Modern Farmer. July 25, 2017.
2: About 4-H. National 4-H Council. Retrieved July 28, 2017 from https://4-h.org/about/history/