Two stories have recently inspired me to think about the role we play in our communities. The first wasMaking it Matterin the JuneReader’s Digest.Ontario middle and high school students pair up with senior citizens who live in the community and through the course of several weeks they compose a song, create a memoir, or stage a drama about their senior friend. In the course of doing so, the stereotypical walls come tumbling down and the hearts come pouring out.
Seniors are thrilled to be included in the life of the new generation and have so much to offer. They also feel more at home and many report feeling inspired by the youth and much safer in their community once they get to know the young people within it. The students just can’t believe how much fun it is to hang out with someone with so much life experience. They all have fun and it brightens the lives of everyone involved in the program.
Just think of the wealth of knowledge sitting in our retirement homes. In agriculture, there have been so many technical changes that it must be simply mind-boggling for someone who has lived in the last 100 years. How interesting it would be to hear their perspective and go back to discussing some basic principles on production practices. It is often said that many things keep going around and here we are today, with a consuming public that wants just what these folks knew how to deliver. The experience of setting up a program between schools and seniors would enrich the entire community.
In Cleveland County, Oklahoma, a new program directly brings agriculture into the lives of special needs children. The FFA (Future Farmers of America) which is similar to Canada’s 4-H program, brings special needs children into the show ring. Called SOULS (Special Olympics Unified Livestock Show) the children are matched with an FFA mentor and learn how to show the livestock, starting with pigs and sheep.
By nature, animals have a way of connecting with children and seem to know when they are to behave. In the SOULS program, animal and child connect and the FFA member also gains an appreciation for the special needs partner they are coaching. The old drive to win at all costs is quickly overtaken by a strong desire to help and inspire the child who would normally never in the course of their lives have such an experience. On the video clip I watched, even the co-announcer for the show day was blind, reading from a braille script.
It goes to exemplify that there are no limits to what we can accomplish within our communities. When we think of the many qualities of agriculture it inspires us to share it. By opening the doors to its infinite complexity and beauty, one cannot help but feel compelled to build programs where we live for both the heart and the soul.
BrendaSchoeppisamarketanalystandtheownerandauthorofBeeflink,anationalbeef-cattlemarketnewsletter.Aprofessionalspeakerandindustrymarketandresearchconsultant,sheranchesnearRimbey,Alberta. [email protected]