Thankful (adjective): Expressing gratitude or relief.
What are you thankful for? This past month we, as state officers, have traveled across the state, from Joseph to Grants Pass and from Hillsboro to Jordan Valley. We are fully submerged in what could be considered the biggest part of state office: leadership tour. From the beginning of September to the end of December, my team visits every school in Oregon that has an agriculture program. In pairs of two, we teach leadership workshops to all students enrolled in an ag class and travel all across the state. In total, we visit over 110 schools and interact with almost 15,000 students.
We are officially halfway through leadership tour and I’m constantly asking myself why? Why take a year off from college, why devote myself to a life on the road, why stay in a different bed every night? For the first half of leadership tour, these questions bothered me. I found myself questioning my decisions and felt myself stuck between what I have done in the past and what I will be doing in the future. But what about now?
After spending a week in Indianapolis surrounded by a sea of blue jackets totaling in over 65,000 I discovered my why. At National Convention this year, I served as a delegate for Oregon FFA. I was given a voice in representing Oregon on the national level, and for that I am thankful. Thankful for these life-changing opportunities, thankful to make connections with new individuals, and thankful to represent an association so dedicated and unified as Oregon FFA. National Convention has been the most enlightening week of State Office yet, opening my eyes to the opportunities I have before me.
Returning from National Convention, we were given a day to gather our bearings, switch over supplies and belongings as we got new tour partners, and travel across the state from Corvallis to Pendleton for yet another school visit. As you might imagine, this day was hectic. The Dylan before National Convention would have been stressed, on edge, and felt pressured for time. But I discovered my why. I took a year off college to meet new people, impact lives, and leave pieces of my heart in every town I visit. I am devoted to a life on the road to see parts of Oregon I was blind to before and sleep in a different bed every night simply for the adventure of it all. On this hectic day, I was on cloud nine.
I visit a new school every day both for the die-hard FFA members who are counting down the days for a state officer visit and for the agriculture students who have no idea who we are, who don’t think they belong in FFA. I visit a new school every day to help the outgoing student hone in on their skills and to help the introverted student in the back of the class volunteer an answer for the first time. I visit a new school every day to get feedback on my facilitation skills from seasoned teachers so I too can grow and improve.
Sometimes as state officers we get caught up on seeing change immediately. If we don’t see a student grow in the period of one leadership camp or one school visit, we feel as if we aren’t doing our job right. We feel as if we are losing sight of our why. And I’ll admit I’m no stranger to this feeling, I have been right there in the first part of leadership tour. But then I remember back to April. Past State Vice President Emma Rooker, dubbed my “mom” pulled me aside, handed me a package of sunflower seeds, and gave me some advice I will never forget.
“It’s all about planting seeds in gardens you won’t have to water yourself.”
She told me to trust in my abilities and the connections I am making. I won’t always see results immediately and it can be disheartening, but trust that the seeds I am planting are seeds that will cultivate into something amazing in the future. This simple five minute interaction has impacted my year of service greater than I could have ever imagined back in April. Whenever I find myself losing sight of my why, these are the words I fall back on.
So I ask again, what are you thankful for? I am thankful for the opportunity to serve, represent, and grow. I am thankful to serve on a team with five other dedicated souls who consistently push me to go the extra mile. I am thankful to represent Oregon agriculture and the FFA. I am thankful to grow every single day in the classroom and on the road.
Oregon FFA, find what you’re thankful for and capitalize on it. Spread gratitude, push limits, and grow exponentially as we close out 2018 and open a new year full of endless opportunities.
Dylan J. Westfall
Oregon FFA State Vice President