At the start of this year, I had no clue what the next twelve months would look like. Life had brought some big changes my way, I wasn’t sure what I should study after I graduated, and the only direction my feet faced was the future, though I wanted to run into the comforting arms of what I had always known. When the opportunity opened to serve Oregon FFA’s 16,000 members, I fought with myself quite a bit. What if this isn’t meant for me? What if I’m not good enough, what if this isn’t what the Lord wants me to do?

All of these thoughts and more waged war in my mind before I made the commitment to try my hand at investing more into the organization that had given me so much. But I am so glad I did. Since March, I have been challenged in new and necessary ways. I’ve seen places and met people who I now can’t imagine life without.

As I write and reminisce from my six-month vantage point, something my dad told me sits in the corner of my heart. We had spent the day tearing out years of tarp from our potato shed, mud soaked into our skin just as closely as the rain. Despite this, we laughed in good conversation. After a particularly difficult section he looked me in the eye and told me “I appreciate your determination.”

This statement, coming from a man who I would argue is one of the most determined to have walked this earth, was something I could not take lightly. It has stayed with me, through the weeks and months, and has been a constant reminder of what type of person I want to become. 

As my team and I began to prepare for leadership tour and spent time with members at the State Fair, I’ve begun to see examples of it everywhere. In students working with their animals, in district officers leading camps, in my own and other advisors as they love and serve their students. Ryan and I had the privilege to spend an afternoon with the Jim & Catherine Baltimore and Darrell Ward, all of whom have been vital supporters of Oregon FFA. As they showed us around their home, it was obvious to us that they were determined to being life-long leaders, whether that be serving their local communities or helping our association serve its members. 

I am so grateful for the wonderful work that Oregon FFA is doing to help students find their own purpose and determination. My team is determined because the work that FFA is doing is important and we love those who we are allowed to serve. There are many things that come our way that we cannot control, but we can use courage to size up our fears, and our strength to move forward with determination.

What is the best way to eat an elephant? 

One bite at a time. 

With love, 

Mary E. Thiel