The streets in Indianapolis will return to normal for the week beginning October 26. Some 50,000 FFA members and their advisors just left town. Their visit not only lifts the local economy, it boosts spirits of those who think there aren't any good kids left in the world anymore.
I helped judge the sales presentation contest, and sat across the table from six young students, one at a time, trying to sell me everything from a trip package for students (I was supposed to be an FFA advisor) to yarn for my craft shop. What they were really selling was themselves, and most of them were very polished.
Our contest coordinator said give them a 90 or higher out of 100 only if they're so good they should have your job. One young lady from Oregon was that good - I gave her a 92. Fortunately, my job isn't just sales. I don't know how well she writes, but based on her poise and presentation, she's probably pretty good with a keyboard and computer file.
Yes, we can't say pen and pencil anymore. Before you know it, kids will look at you funny if you say that - they won't know what you're talking about.
I bumped into various FFA members in blue jackets at the career show after I finished judging. I particularly sought out those from Indiana. They were polite, and were eager to learn new things. But they were also just kids. They're not adults yet - they're learning how to be adults, and that's part of what FFA is all about - putting kids in situations where they have to think for themselves and make wise choices, It may be in a contest, or it could be at the career show. Do I just hit all the stops where they're giving stuff away, or do I take time to talk to the guy about what a career in plant breeding might be like?
There are also decisions to be made during the rest of the week outside of the convention hall and conference center. An advisor who brings a dozen students can't be expected to be with them every minute. Most use the buddy system, and often students from the same school hang together. But what they do is up to them. Will they be perfect gentlemen and ladies, like adults, Ha! Ha! 24/7. Probably not.
If you've followed the news you've probably guessed where this is going. A young man from Texas was tragically injured in what appears to be an accidental fall from the upper balcony in Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis. There are conflicting reports about what led to the tragedy.
Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to that young man's family and friends, including his chapter members and advisors. The convention is supposed to be about learning, with a little fun thrown in, and a chance to experience the big world outside of where you live. It's all a part of the growing up process - a hallmark of FFA. It's not supposed to be about ambulances, hospitals and tragedy.
Unfortunately, even FFA members in blue jackets aren't immune from tragedy. Sometimes kids don't make the best decisions. Sometimes adults don't either - I fell off a ladder yesterday. In retrospect, it probably didn't make sense to put it up against the house with one ladder leg in a hole dug by the dog. But I was certain it would lean in to the house, and I would be fine. I just needed to get close enough to paint the top window trim.
A split second later, I had a cut above my eye, only an inch or so off the eye itself, nearly a full gallon of paint splattered everywhere, including all over me and the house, and my pride hurting almost as bad as my head. I should have known better. But after all, isn't that how many accidents happen - we should know better, but we take a risk anyway?
If adults make mistakes, so will kids. Admire the blue jackets. They're going to be the leaders of agriculture tomorrow - no doubt about it. There's not a better youth development program ever devised anywhere in the world.
Just remember one thing - the person inside the jacket is still a kid learning how to grow up.
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