Stray Kernels – Arm-twisting & Gratitude

Posted: February 13, 2019

January and February are intense months for me. Not gonna lie—sometimes my heart sinks when I think of all that needs to be accomplished during these months.

Reaching 3,000+ elementary kids with meaningful Ag in the Classroom (AITC) experiences is a hefty project with many moving parts. Promoting the program to teachers. Updating lessons. Ordering, preparing, and organizing supplies. Printing materials. Recruiting volunteer presenters. Lots and lots of emails and phone calls. It can all be overwhelming.

But then I remember that I have help with it all, if I ask. Case in point: the Ag Literacy Committee meets every year in mid-January for an “AITC work night.” On the age-old principle that “many hands make light work,” committee members bag, bundle, collate, count, cut, fold, label, scoop, sort, staple, and stuff supplies. In an hour or two, they complete the amount of work that would otherwise take several days. They talk, tease, laugh, and keep me running: “What happens when we run out of spoons?” “I’m short two copies of the Corn Fact Sheet.” “Where are the soybean tubes?” “What would you like us to do with these folders when we’re done?”

This year, 17 committee members showed up for the work night, surpassing the attendance for any previous January meeting I can remember. I was surprised and extraordinarily grateful. As I do every year, I thought to myself, “Tomorrow morning I should send every single one of these amazing people a heartfelt thank-you note.”

But as also happens every year, the next day came, and I raced onto other pressing tasks without writing and sending those thank-yous. Each time I glance at the prepared AITC materials, that feeling of gratitude springs up all over again.

My gratitude continues as I respond to emails and calls from people willing to conduct the classroom presentations. It continues when over a dozen people venture out on dark, snowy roads for the volunteer training. It continues when volunteers come in to pick up their supplies and thank me. (“Wait, what?” I think. “You’re the one who’s going to do these presentations; I’m just giving you the stuff!”) My gratitude continues when teachers reach out and say, “Thank you—we love this program!”

Back at AITC work night, after the busywork is done the committee meets briefly to discuss upcoming projects and programs. During discussion at this year’s meeting, someone teasingly described me as “the best arm-twister I know.” I was startled, but then I realized they were probably right. I have gotten pretty adept at asking for help. However, I never lose sight of the fact that committee members and other volunteers are setting aside their own precious time for agricultural literacy. With that in mind, I strive to make sure that time spent volunteering is as rewarding as possible.

Finally, I never ever stop being grateful. Ag Literacy Committee members and Ag in the Classroom volunteers, this is for you.

Thank you.