Monthly Archives: March 2013

would i have benefited from being in 4H?


hey anderson,

happy st. paddy’s day! i’m a quarter irish and wearing green today, but with it being monday tomorrow i’m staying home and staying sober.  what fun i am! also, i am pretty exhausted from the day i had yesterday.

the company i work for is a supporter of 4H. are you familiar?  i kinda doubt it, as it is primarily a rural organization and, i believe primarily canadian.  not many people i meet in the city have ever heard of it.  in fact, i’d only read about it books before getting a job that sent me into rural communities.

the first time i went to 4H event, i was blown away.  it was an awards night and kids were getting awards for best raised cow and crazy farm stuff like that.  what really resonated with me was how poised all of the kids were when getting on stage.  then i learned that a strong element of the clubs is public speaking.  at that time i was a terrible public speaker who would throw up, cry and talk at a mile a minute.  when i saw those kids though, i figured i could probably be a bit better.  if only i’d had activities like that when i was a kid!

a little more about raising cows; a lot of the 4H clubs are beef clubs.  one crazy element of being in the clubs is each kid will raise a calf.  they spend a year tracking its growth and activities.  they put together fun reports on all they learned.  and then they send their cow to slaughter.  literally.  i went to one auction and i was traumatized.  the kids parade around their giant cows and the local community and businesses buy the cows. the kids take one last picture with their animal and then they get led onto a truck.  to their deaths.  before i went to the auction i was given strict not to get emotional and freak out because the kids would think i was crazy.  i silently assumed that was an exaggeration and that at least some of the younger girls would be upset.  the only tears were the ones i held back when posing with the cow we bought.  i’m so glad i don’t have a copy of that picture, how macabre.

but i have to ask myself, would i have been tougher, more prepared for death and loss had i bee in 4H?  i’d have to say yes, having known a few adults who were in 4H beef clubs.  years later they were still nonchalant about the whole thing.  where i am still clearly traumatized by the part i played.

so back to yesterday.  our company sent out an email saying judges were needed at a 4H district public speaking competition.  it was being held in a town that i’d visited frequently during my last job so i jumped at the chance to return.  of course, as the date approached i quickly regretted being such a gracious volunteer.  i started to worry mostly about the weather.  i’d been in that area in the snow before, but it had been awhile and i was quickly building mountains out of molehills.  huge, ice covered treacherous mountains.  but, yesterday i woke up at 6 am and got on the road.  mostly because i could not get up the courage to cancel.  not quite perseverance, but it will do in a pinch.

the roads were fine, not great in places, but overall the drive there was uneventful.  when i got to the school where the competition was being held i was getting progressively more anxious.  somehow in my worrying about the drive i had forgotten to worry about having to make small talk.  better late than never i guess.

everyone else there seemed totally prepared for the judging, where i had just skimmed the handbook.  it seemed pretty straightforward.  though when i sat down i realized i had no idea what to do.  luckily the nice man sitting beside me helped me out.  he touched my arm once, but i hope to forgive him any minute.

i was a judge for junior impromptu speeches.  can you imagine?  seriously, that is how several of my nightmares get started.  but these ten kids just marched up, got their topics and and stood in front of us.  now, these weren’t high school debate topics, they were more like my favourite movie or why kids shouldn’t have to go to school on their birthdays.  for the most part the kids were great, one girl froze but still she seemed pretty pulled together. i’m surprised my maniacal grin of support didn’t send her over the edge.  i’m pretty sure i was more freaked out than she was.

with the event done and my rankings submitted we were then told one of us would need to speak to everyone to tell them how the speeches went.  that is when my fight or flight response really kicked in.  before that it was really just on standby.  i told one of the other judges that i had a 2 hour drive home and needed to get going in case the weather got worse.  i pretty much ran out the door after that.  i felt like maybe i should tell someone i was leaving so they didn’t wonder if i was hiding in a locker or something.  so i told the lady who’d greeted me when i arrived.  she told me i could stay for snacks and whatnot but i brushed that craziness aside and left in a flurry of awkward panic.

when i finally got home i still was high on adrenaline but also still glad i went.  as much as i truly hate interacting with the outside world, i know it’s a fact of life so i may as well get used to it and do things i actually enjoy doing.

so yes, i am pretty sure i would have benefited from being in 4H.  every kid i saw yesterday was calm and collected.  they were engaging when they spoke in the hallways just as much as when they were giving their speeches.  and i really do envy that.  the 4H motto is ‘learn by doing’ and i have to admit that’s a pretty great one.