I’ve often thought about two words the past few months: Grief and Gratitude. It’s been a hard year for many with grief coming in the form of various losses. The stories I’ve been blessed to be entrusted with this year included losses in the form of livestock, land, fences, feed, finances, crops, homes, health, relationships, family members, pets, farms, jobs…
It’s important to take the time to grieve and acknowledge the losses while not getting stuck there. I think sometimes we want to push forward and avoid the mess of grief, but there’s healing in acknowledging it. At our Extension Fall Conference, we spent time talking through 2019 and the experiences we had as Extension faculty with boots on the ground serving people. While it was uncomfortable for many, there was healing in the discussion and sharing, in the tears and triumphs of helping others during a really difficult year. I would encourage us all to acknowledge losses we’ve experienced and ultimately keep talking with others instead of isolating.
Our keynote speaker at our conference was David Horsager who wrote the book The Trust Edge. One thing he asks his audiences, “What is the most endearing quality a person can have?” What do you think? Often people say kindness, compassion, generosity, being positive, humor, etc. His company does a great deal of research and they’ve found the most endearing quality is…Gratitude…sincere gratitude. According to Oxford’s Dictionary, gratitude means “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.
There’s been a lot of research on gratitude! Harvard University shared, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.” Summarizing several studies I read, most would say finding a way to count one’s blessings or focusing on gratitude greatly improved a person’s sleep, health, attitude, focus, and relationships. Many of those studies didn’t involve individuals who struggled with mental wellness. However, one study in Indiana focused on 300 adults who suffered from anxiety and depression. The researchers wanted to see if focusing on gratitude could help with mental health concerns. Adults were split into three groups and each group also received counseling. One group wrote a letter of gratitude to someone each week (but wasn’t required to share it). Another group wrote down negative thoughts and experiences while the third group didn’t do any activity involving writing. Individuals who wrote the gratitude letters were found to have significantly improved mental health 4 and 12 weeks after starting the activity (in spite of only 23% actually sending the letters). The gratitude activity on top of receiving counseling resulted in better mental wellness for the individuals than counseling alone. Regardless of if one is in the midst of a difficult time or not, research ultimately shows the benefits of seeking gratitude!
Grief and Gratitude. With Thanksgiving this week, for what are you and I grateful? Perhaps there’s someone who came alongside you this year during a difficult time or someone who showed you an unexpected kindness that you wish to thank in some way? Perhaps you choose to make a list of things for which you’re thankful or jot a few things down each day? Perhaps you choose to write one letter or note to someone each week expressing thanks? Or perhaps your family starts a tradition of expressing gratitude in some way during Thanksgiving dinner? Additional ideas for expressing gratitude, particularly for those with children, can be found at: https://go.unl.edu/q04v. Here’s wishing everyone a blessed Thanksgiving!
In May of 2004, I was a new college graduate beginning my career in Extension in Clay County. Extension is pretty nebulous when one begins…it’s about making connections and determining the needs of the people we serve.
First Days and Week
I remember the first day of my career being met in the field by two great educators in Gary Zoubek and Andy Christiansen as we discussed an on-farm research project; I was blessed to be mentored by them to understand what good Extension looked like. That weekend, we had a tornado go through the county. I remember Monday morning receiving a call from Andy letting me know it was my job to drive the county and help document the damage for the Farm Service Agency. Not knowing anyone, Deanna Peshek, our office manager, graciously volunteered to drive me around pointing out farmsteads and letting me look at fields. Since that first time, we’ve unfortunately had many tornadoes, wind/hail storms in which damage has been documented and where we’ve all worked together to help communities/farmsteads clean up and help farmers make the best decisions. It’s always been special to watch people throughout the county and area come together to help each other.
I’m grateful to those farmers who early on introduced themselves and gave me permission to look at their fields each week so I had a better handle on crop problems and diseases. I’ve been blessed to have worked with wonderful on-farm research cooperators through the years and with NRDs/Extension/many farmers/consultants in Clay and the surrounding area with installing moisture sensors/ET gages for irrigation scheduling and in diagnosing crop problems. There are farmers/home-owners who befriended me, always taking time to chat when I went to look at their fields/lawns/trees or took time to stop in the office to visit; grateful for these friendships! Fair time has always been such a special time for me; our fair is a true gem. Very few counties can say the Fair Board, Extension Board, 4-H Council, and Extension staff all get along-and that is true of Clay County! Beyond that, we have great livestock quality, competition, and sportsmanship amongst our families which is how it should be. The focus of youth/families at the Clay County Fair has also been a blessing to me. The closing of South Central Research and Extension Center and restructure into the South Central Ag Lab had occurred a few years before I was hired, yet the excellent research conducted there remained with dedicated technicians, staff, and researchers with whom I’ve been blessed to work in addition to those at USMARC and GPVEC. And, I’ve been so blessed in Clay county and surrounding area to have relationships with newspaper staff who understand that ag drives our local economies and who strive to work with Extension. I’m also grateful for the team of ladies I’ve worked with in the Extension office and faculty and staff in surrounding counties as we’ve all worked together to serve our constituents.
I’ve reflected much the past month on numerous blessings God has provided me in this position since I began in Clay County. Recently, I chose to accept a new challenge in my life by accepting the York/Seward crops/water educator position which will begin April 1. This was a very difficult decision for me; one I haven’t taken lightly and one which has been bathed in prayer. I know this is where God is leading me. That doesn’t come without sadness of leaving as the people of Clay County and this surrounding area are truly special.
Thank you for welcoming this young gal straight out of college and eventually trusting me to share research-based information with you, help you with decisions including the farm bill, look at your fields/lawns/gardens/trees, and in many cases build relationships. I will always be grateful to all of you for how you helped me and all you’ve taught me through the years!!! I’ve been assured the Clay county crops/water position with accountability region for Nuckolls/Thayer/Fillmore will be refilled and in the meantime, I will continue to assist this area in addition to my new one. Please do be patient with us during this transition. I’m thankful that agriculture is so connected and that there will be opportunities to connect at meetings in the future. Thank you again for your support of our Extension office and of me!
- FSA Farm Bill meeting March 17 at 1:30 p.m. at Clay Co. Fairgrounds
- Water Conservation in the Landscape gardening program April 14th from 5:30-7:00 p.m. at the Clay Co. Fairgrounds
- Lawn Care program April 21st from 5:30-7:00 p.m., Clay Co. Fairgrounds