In case you didn’t already know, it rains a lot in Florida! Who am I kidding, if you have lived here for any span of time you know this, as well as the fact that the weather can change from a sunny 90 degrees to a torrential downpour in a matter of minutes. And while rain is instrumental to life, it doesn’t necessarily make for the best driving conditions! After eighteen years of living in Florida, and four years of being an FFA member and traveling around the state, I would say that rain is to be expected on road trips, sort of like a tradition!
Since being elected almost two months ago, I still haven’t made the drive to or from Gainesville without the windshield wipers going full speed at some point in the trip. Quite possibly the worst weather I have ever driven through was coming home from our first trip as state officers.
Our team had just spent two weeks together participating in trainings, road trips, a lot of meals, and the High School Forestry Camp Banquet. This was the longest I had ever been away from my family so I was anxious to get home. Filling up my car with gas was the only thing left on my checklist before it was safe to start the three hour drive. I left Gainesville with a full tank of gas, a new appreciation for my teammates, and tools to guide me in my year of service. (I also managed to leave with a slammed finger, but that’s another story!)
Not a mile after I turned onto I-75 North, the torrential downpour came. Typical thoughts were running through my mind about whether I should keep going or get off at the next exit. To make a long story short, I stayed on the road, embracing my adventurous side. I kept my eyes fixed on the car in front of me, waiting for any sudden stops. The traffic was going a manageable 40 mph in a 70. I kept a safe distance away and my windshield wipers were at full speed. After a solid three minutes of tense shoulders and firm hands on the wheel, I looked up at the sky for the first time and saw the infamous Florida sun just beyond the black clouds. [cloud picture here]
Just five minutes later, the storm eased up and it was smooth sailing the rest of the trip. It occurred to me that I was so consumed in the pressures of the moment that I forgot to consider what was beyond the storm.
I think as FFA members, and humans in general, we often get so caught up in the challenges of the moment that we forget the bigger picture. I remember having to adjust to three new Ag teachers and how tough that was. Each new teacher had a totally different personality and way of running the program. It wasn’t easy to keep the momentum in the chapter going and sometimes I got incredibly frustrated. Of course, it wasn’t their fault, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around why it had to happen to my chapter. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go in “The perfect FFA career.” Then something always prompted me to redirect my focus to the skills I had gained despite the circumstances: adaptability, perseverance, communication, trust, faith. Skills that I couldn’t have acquired with only one advisor all four years. When I reflect on this, I can see the purpose each difficulty had in my FFA career and ultimately life beyond the blue jacket.
I can’t help but think of the farmers who experience the same challenge of excessive rain among many other setbacks. They could easily choose to sit on the sidelines and say “Oh, someone else can take care of this…” Agriculturists live their days with the future in mind. They cultivate the ground with the hope that it will prosper, all the while knowing that challenges are likely. Agriculturists truly live for what’s to come.
Now, each time I drive through the traditional rain, I try to focus on the road, but also think about how my attitude and choices in a particular moment shape my character in all of the moments following. By no means am I promoting driving in hazardous weather. However, I am challenging you to live for beyond the moment.
Area 1 State Vice President