My father gave me a great gift — a love for reading. I clearly remember him getting a new book by a favorite author and laying on the couch reading it cover to cover on Thanksgiving or Christmas. It was a tradition that he would read his book, napping every once in a while, and we would not bother him until he was done.
Now, my mother would argue it wasn’t that he was so enthralled with the story line, but that he was escaping from having to spend time with her parents. Either way, it was something he looked forward to. As I got older and found authors I loved, I eagerly anticipated the arrival of their newest publication and found myself getting lost in the pages of a story, wanting to sit and not move until I finished savoring the last word.
Two things happened over Christmas that made me tell you that story. First, one of my favorite authors, Sue Grafton, passed away. For those of you familiar with her work, you are probably aware that she did not want her work turned into movies, or have a ghost writer finish them. When she died that was the end of the story line. The second thing that happened was that I received a book, “4-H Stories from the Heart.” This is a collection of stories from around the country about how 4-H affected the lives of members, volunteers, and staff — sort of a four-leaf clover version of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series. Now these may seem like two independent things but bear with me.
There is no doubt that the 4-H program affects lives. No matter where you were a part of the program there is something from it that has positively changed your life or given you skills that allowed you to be successful at something. Once in a blue moon I hear a story, get a letter from an alum, or meet someone new who tells me they were touched by 4-H. The problem is, these stories, which warm my heart and often motivate me, or others, to go on when we have a bad day, often get lost or, worse, are never told. If these stories die with the participant or are never told our 4-H program of more than 115 years will die, too.
What I am asking today is if you were part of 4-H, or touched by it in any way, and have a story you would like to share, please share it with me. You can write a note, send me an email, or give me a call to share your story. If you are willing to let me share it with others, please let me know. Maybe this Thanksgiving I can sit on the couch and read everything sent again, from cover to cover, and let my heart get full or allow our staff and volunteers to be inspired. Most of all, you will allow your incredible experiences to help us make life-changing experiences for our next generation.
As I have shared a passion for reading with you today, let’s share our passion for 4-H today and in all of our tomorrows.
Shea Ann DeJarnette is an Extension 4-H Youth Development Agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276 or by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu.