Saturday, February 28, 2009

Giving up...or Adding Value?

Some of us may be familiar with the religious holiday of lent. Lent is a 40-day period of fasting, repentance, and preparation for the BIG BUNNY day of Easter! During this time many people choose to “give up” something they love. For example, ice cream, Grey’s Anatomy, or perhaps chocolate. Why do individuals do this? It is a sign of repentance and opportunity to experience self-control.

Giving up certain indulgences is great, as a matter of fact it may lead to creating a better lifestyle habit. However, there are certain people who decide to do something rather than give something up.

Yes, actually add something to your life, rather than take away. I like to look at this as adding value. What in your life can you take and improve on?

A good friend of mine, named Jackie, decided last year for lent she would focus on relationships. Each day she would write a letter to someone. Not just a few words in a goofy card, but an actual letter with thought and personalization. I was one of the lucky recipients of one of Jackie’s letters. It came to be when I had just returned home from a long time on the road. I was tired, drained mentally and physically, and was wondering how I would make it on another month long journey with just two days of rest. As always, my parents had bundled up my mail and placed it in my room from when I was gone. When I came across Jackie’s letter, it was just what I needed.

Suddenly, my attitude vaulted into a positive state. Her letter reminded me of why I was traveling, why FFA and student’s development are so important. Two days of rest was no longer needed after reading her words…all I really needed was a reminder.

Jackie wrote 40 letters or more over lent last year. Can you imagine what a huge impact her letters had? Not only did they impact 40 individuals directly, but those people around the 40 letter recipients were impacted.

I know I was more energized and enthusiastic as I started on the road again after receiving a letter.

Whether it is something you practice during lent, or something you choose to start at any point in your life, adding value to your life is important. We can add value in the relationships we invest in, like what Jackie did. We can add value by creating and sticking to a healthy lifestyle plan, or perhaps we add value through scheduled “hobby” time to do the things we love despite how busy we are.

Giving up an indulgence is hard, yet adding value can be even harder. How can you be committed to adding value to your life? Or perhaps the question is how do you pin-point where in your life you want to add that value?

Today is a good time to ask yourself these questions. Not tomorrow, the next day, or in a month. No, the time is today, now, the current. How can you add value to live the life you so desire?

Five Life-Long Lessons...from Dodgeball!!


Lesson #1: Be CONFIDENT! It really doesn't matter how you look, as long as you are confident with yourself others will buy it.

Lesson #2: Focus on the moment! Always be into the game at that very moment in time--if you don't, your likely to get a hit to the head (and no one likes that:-).

Lesson #3: Trust your team. It takes all of you to win the tournament, whether your on the sidelines cheering or on the court dipping, dodging, ducking, and diving!

Lesson #4: Go for the ball! When that whistle blows, that means "it is now or never!" Go for what you really want and don't look back!

Lesson #5: Don't take yourself too seriously! It is just a game, the competition should be fun...key word: F-U-N! Life is to short to get worked up over the little things.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Just as Guilty

The other morning I was doing my normal workout at the campus recreation center (yes, I am working out, yea me:-). I picked my same treadmill right next to the large windows that looked out at the parking lot. I admit, I can be a bit of a people watcher and rather enjoy seeing who is coming and going. The other morning, I was watching a fit looking girl get out of her car, grab her ipod, keys, and magazine, and then begin walking to the door. As she was walking, one of the inserts in the magazine fell to the ground. She stopped, turned, looked at the trash that had fallen, and then continued on her way into the rec leaving it on the ground.

While watching the girl, I kept thinking in my head “Pick it up, PICK IT UP!” However, the trash remained on the ground. I continued running about another 20 minutes. Person after person passed the trash, not ever hesitating to pick it up and throw it away in the nearby trash can. By the time I was finished working out, the trash was still laying there on the sidewalk. I very easily bent over, grabbed it, and tossed the paper in the trash on the way to my car.

After seeing this the other morning, I couldn’t help but flashback to a situation this past year when something similar happened.

One of my teammates on my National FFA Officer team, Tyler, had a cool motto. “If you see trash and don’t pick it up, then you are just as guilty as the person who dropped it in the first place!” Pretty simple!

Tyler would exhibit this belief everywhere we traveled. Often, we would find that we were all ahead and there was Tyler, straggling behind finding trash many of us never noticed. I admit, I used to be that girl at the rec who dropped trash and ignored it instead of putting it in its rightful place. I would feel that it would emphasis my mistake if I bent over to grab something I had dropped. Instead, it is so much easier to just walk on and pretend like you didn’t realize what had happened.

Today, I strive to be more conscious of my surroundings. Picking up trash is but one example of a way we can help make an impact in our own backyards. But how else can we? When we see a person “ignore” the fact the dropped something, what is to say they don’t choose to ignore other important things? Perhaps you sometimes choose to ignore the bully picking on one of your peers because it is easier if you just stay out of it. Perhaps you choose to ignore that rude comment said two people away from you while eating lunch. Perhaps you ignore a cry for help because it would inconvenience your day.

The bottom line is…if you choose to ignore it, you are just as guilty as the original person who started the problem. Yes, this is a common theme that many of us have heard…but do we choose to act on it? It can be as simple as picking up trash on the sidewalk while you go to work or school. Maybe it is as big as telling someone else that their rude remarks cannot be tolerated. If you see a problem, what can you do to solve it?

Yes, it is hard to be perfect in every situation. And yes, I am most definitely not perfect! However, they key is to be conscious of our surroundings and choose to act when needed. Tyler is a huge proponent of picking up every little bit of debris, trash, or small particle that is out of place to keep our environment clean. I will always remember the day he told our team his motto “If you see it, and don’t do anything about it, then you are just as guilty.”

Perhaps today we start thinking more about what we can contribute to others and our world. It is important to remember, that if you are not helping to solve the problem, then you are most likely contributing to it.

Make a difference…no matter how small.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Get Uncomfortable

Yesterday was a new first for me. It was the first time I met Alex.

Alex is a fourteen-year old boy who is paralyzed from the waist down and has limited movement with his arms. When I first saw Alex, he sped out of his mom’s van in his motorized wheelchair, spun around, smiled, and shouted “We’re here!” Immediately he started asking questions like “What is that horses name? Can I pet your dog? When do we start?”

Alex is a physically disabled child who is one of many who participate at Hope Ranch Therapeutic Riding Center just outside of Manhattan Kansas. I heard about Hope Ranch through a volunteer group e-mail I received in November. It talked about the mission of Hope Ranch: to provide a therapeutic equine program designed for individuals with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and emotional disabilities who can benefit from therapeutic riding and other equine activities.

Two of my passions are 1) working with children, and 2) horses! What a perfect match! Upon my return to K-State, I decided to complete the Hope Ranch Volunteer application and training. This Monday was my first official lesson—this is where I met Alex.

My first thought was “WOW! How is this boy going to stay on a horse?” We had no special saddle that I had seen, just your typical western style. Despite my original thought of concern, once Alex opened his mouth infusing the air with his words of joy, I knew we would find a way.

It ended up that another girl and I stood on either side of Alex the entire lesson, supporting the trunk of his body and legs. When Alex first got on the horse (named Pepsi) he was extremely nervous, dizzy, and uncertain. After some persuasion, he let us take him into the arena to walk around. After the first lap his face went from frightened to complete and utter enjoyment! The longer the lesson went the more he talked, the more positive he was, and the more he was able to support himself in the saddle verses the other girl and me.

“Mom, we are going to do this everyday right?” Alex asked his mom. When she told him only on Mondays, his response was “No, everyday please.” Following Alex’s lesson, I wished him goodbye and told him I’d be seeing him EVERY Monday! He smiled and said “Don’t be late!”

---FYI, I wasn’t late, but apparently I look like the un-timely type

This Monday was by far the most rewarding day of my semester thus far. There was a point during the lesson where I almost started crying. It wasn’t that I pitied Alex for his disability. No, rather the desire to cry came from hearing him laugh and seeing his face light up. That sheer happiness he experienced in those 45 minutes was one of the most rewarding sights my eyes have ever been blessed to see. It was as if for those few minutes, he could forget about everything and just enjoy the moment of actually riding a horse!

Alex is an amazing young boy. There is no doubt that his parents have played a large role in that as well. After meeting Alex’s mom, Rebecca, and dad, Ryan, I could tell why he was such an optimistic person. The care, support, and strong faith that his parents exhibited proved to be the reason Alex has been as successful as he is. I can’t imagine the constant challenges his parents face, and yet they see the “bigger picture.” Their family is blessed to have Alex in their lives. That is what is important.

This experience has been one way I have gotten outside my comfort zone. I have had little to no experience working with disabled children. Hope Ranch has challenged me to stretch my leadership techniques for a new type of constituent. Yes, I may be nervous at times. However, in the end, the reward is much greater than any discomfort you may face along the way.

Alex is an amazing young boy that I look forward to spending every Monday with. I would have never met him if I hadn’t have chosen to try something new, something “uncomfortable.” If there is one challenge I would give you, this week seek out an area you can grow yourself that pushes your norm.

There are too many experiences in life to stay stagnate. Get uncomfortable, and trust will be worth it.