Good kids doing good things

Our 4-H youth are some of the best of the best. It really provides hope for the future. Someday these good kids doing good things will grow into good neighbors and good community leaders.

Reprinted with permission from The Pioneer, Osceola Edition

Despite what some readers may think, it’s not necessarily easy being the local, angry curmudgeon all the time.

Frankly, it’s wearying being the guy who is always ranting and raving about some injustice, unfairness or just plain stupid behavior. Lord knows, there is no lack of material for opinion writers. People are always misbehaving or doing the dumbest things.

Then there’s the fair. It’s no secret that I love fair week. Not only is it fun, but it’s also refreshing.

Oh, yeah. I know.

“It was bigger when I was a kid.”

“There were more entries a few years ago.”

“There’s nowhere near the number of rides there used to be.”

“Some kid brought a store bought tomato to be judged.”

“If that kid baked that bread, I’m a turnip.”

I hear all the complaints... every year. I just don’t let it bother me. I look for other things when I’m at the fair.

I am a huge admirer of 4-H and all things 4-H.

This year I visited the Osceola fair and saw some really good kids doing really good things.

As you stroll the barns and sit alongside the arenas, you can’t help but notice kids working very hard to perfect their showmanship skills – young people working with their animals to be the best they can be in some pretty stiff competitions.

But there’s something else very, very evident.

While the kids are working on individual skills, they also are working for the greater good. There is a real sense of community that quickly develops in each barn or shed – a sense of community that adults could certainly learn and apply to their lives as well.

Older kids help younger kids, and younger kids help younger kids still. The barn becomes one big neighborhood.

There is a real need to keep things clean and organized, in every stall and around each individually owned animal. There’s even a greater need to keep the entire barn well organized. Although each kid has his or her own stall area, and although there may be club affiliations in this section or that, it’s well recognized that if one person has a tough time getting their chores done it reflects on the whole barn.

If a little kid can’t quite handle the wheelbarrow filled with waste, someone jumps in to offer a hand. Not only does this help keep the whole barn cleaner, but it’s just the right thing to do.

When a smaller 4-H’er struggles with a big animal, it more often than not is an older 4-H’er who grabs hold of a rope and offers a bit of advice on how to get the beast under control. Not only is it the right thing to do, it also goes a long way to avoiding chaos in the barns and arenas.

Kids may not realize they are building “community.” They probably just reach out and help because it’s learned behavior.

When they were little, someone helped them. Now it’s simply their turn to give the ‘juniors’ a piece of advice or a little assistance in the right place and at the right time.

Nowhere was the mettle of our 4-H kids displayed more openly than at the Challenge Rodeo this year.

A couple dozen or more participants with wide and varying degrees of “challenges” take part in this annual event for special needs neighbors.

This year there were participants from Osceola, Wexford, Mecosta, Mason and Benzie counties.

The Challenge Rodeo is a great event, allowing participants who might not otherwise be able to take part in the fair an opportunity to shine, to succeed and to win. These participants need differing amounts of help to get through the events and challenges.

There’s plenty of help on hand — both from adults and from dozens of young 4-H’ers who take part each year and have a ton of fun while helping those who need a little help.

It was inspiring to watch the young people step up to the plate and do the right thing.

Not only did they work different events, from roping to bull riding, but they demonstrated some wonderful, on-the-spot problem solving skills while making sure each Challenge Rodeo participant not only took part, but succeeded and finished as a winner.

If a participant was having too much trouble getting a lasso over the hay-bale bull’s head, a quick and subtle shift of the target made the next toss a resounding success.

If a “bull” rider on the practice barrel was leaning a touch too far this way or that, a gentle touch or change of pace on the bucking barrel made sure the ride was completed in good time and successfully.

If a participant was a bit confused as to where to go next, a friendly hand-in-hand guided them to their event.

Words of encouragement were offered that were words learned in another place at another time—in supportive homes, by parents, teachers and club leaders.

If fair week is a time for 4-H’ers to show off their skills, their participation in activities such as the Challenge Rodeo and their cooperative efforts in the barns and arenas really show the stuff they are made of.

I love the fair.

It gives me a real chance to see the best there is in our county.

And these kids, our 4-H youth, are some of the best of the best.

It really gives me hope for the future.

Hopefully these good kids doing good things will grow into good neighbors and good community leaders.

I believe they will do so.

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