But I Cashed It
When I was younger, I despised public speaking. I always struggled with speaking whether I was stuttering or mumbling– so much so that I was enrolled in a special education speaking class. I did many exercises and practices that tried to improve my speaking, but I always found myself frustrated. What made things worse was that my Dad was a teacher, my brother was an amazing leader in our school, and I heard my mom on the radio all the time. My whole family spoke publically on a daily basis, and I was the odd one out. So my freshman year when I was asked to record a radio ad for FFA Week, you should understand my hesitation and anxiety. “The F-F-FA i-ss an agricultura-lly bbased…” After taking about 15 minutes to record a thirty second segment, the editor combined the bumpy recordings. The next morning on my way to school, I turned on the radio and heard my voice. People always will say that they sound weird in a recording, but what I felt here was different. It was anger, it was self-doubt, and it was motivation to change. What I heard was a young boy who had no passion of what he was talking about and what he was representing. No longer was my motivation for speaking just a personal thing, but it was a reality check about who I was representing– my chapter, Republic County High School, and FFA. What kind of example am I setting for others if I am not showing passion about what I’m doing? I Had-a-chek and realized that how we act either positively or negatively represents who we are. Since then, I have had a few checks, and have learned that once we understand the purpose we represent in the decisions we make we will be amazed by the people who watch, the actions they take because of that, and the bigger picture we now represent.
My first type of check occurred my junior year of high school. My teammates and I competed in the State Basketball Championship in Bramlage Coliseum. Thousands of people sat in the stands that night, but one person was still missing—my grandma. I would have given anything for Grandma to be able to watch us play for one game. Somehow we ended up piecing together a win that evening, (Display first picture) and my cousin, Gary and I found ourselves in the same embrace that we had found each other several years earlier at our grandmother’s funeral. What Gary told me next I will remember for the rest of my life and gives me chills to this day, “Grandma’s watching.” I flashed back to when I was four years old. Gary and I were best friends growing up. We used to have races around our grandparents house. Our grandma would drop us off at the Summer Recreation Bus every day. When Gary and I would be playing basketball, grandma was the one who was supervising. Had it not been for the teamwork that she instilled in us from that age, we wouldn’t have been standing on the court together in victory. Had it not been for her checking in on our maturing, we wouldn’t have developed into the young men that we are today. Then I looked at the crowd. The thousands of people had all impacted the 12 players on the floor in some way. It became obvious to me that our win was not about me, it wasn’t about the 12 players in uniform, it wasn’t about the two hours a day we spent practicing since we were five, and it was definitely not about basketball. Our victory that evening was the result of people like my grandmother who have been checking in on us and building us into who we are. (Take down picture and return to headshot). Our lives are full of these people, whether they are our parents, our friends, or just somebody who cares. It is not about me. This jacket is not about me. This stage is not about me. We all have someone in our lives that have instilled values and qualities in our lives. When we accomplish a goal, it is not just about us in that moment—but those people we represent.
Whether we know it or not, those people are always checking our actions, our personalities, and our growth. Who in your life do you represent with your work? The influence they have had made us into the people we are today– That could be a parent teaching us not to steal that piece of bubblegum, a friend keeping us accountable to do homework, or a conversation of encouragement that we have with a teacher after school. Is your time and effort devoted to a cause that they would be proud of? If they were to walk beside you for a week, would they be happy with the image that you portray?
Just as we our actions are seen by many, many form their actions around ours. My second check happened on a summer day after my junior year in high school. My friend was babysitting three kids, and when I introduced myself to nine year old Isaac Morris, he was enthralled by my presence. My first thought was, “man this kid has some low standards for amazement.” I’d lived in my community my entire life. I definitely was not a superstar, or anybody that deserved this praise. But apparently, Isaac had seen me on the football field every Friday night, he had watched me on the basketball floor, and he had heard my voice on the radio. You probably have heard the expression “time is money”. So you can say that my time is a check. Over the last two years I have invested my check on Isaac Morris. (display the Isaac PowerPoint slide) Isaac and I have become close friends. When Isaac turned 10, he got a Republic County Buffaloes shirt with Hadachek written across the back and my basketball number, 25, underneath. When I graduated last spring, I knew that I would not be able to be around as much. I would not be able to have the same impact on him, because he was not seeing me compete in high school sports or hearing my name on the radio. I anticipated Isaac to find a new role model. And it took me moving to college, for me to realize how much he meant to me. One of the best moments in my life occurred when I returned home for a basketball game this last year, and I saw Isaac walk into the gym wearing my name written across his back. As I sat and talked with him, he mentioned that his dream was to become an engineer at Kansas State. When I initially came to college, that was my same dream. I did very little for Isaac to look up to me. But that’s when I realized that the path I chose for myself is reflected on his path. The actions that I choose now have an effect on his future. I understand that Isaac’s aspirations may change and his role models may change as well. Isaac will outgrow his shirt at some point, (Take down Isaac PowerPoint go back to headshot) but I realized at that through that conversation that the responsibility of a role model runs much deeper in inspiring the actions they will take.
We may not all know what purpose we have or who we will affect yet, but I challenge you to look at the decisions you make. Are our decisions allowing us to get the most from our checks that we invest? Who are we serving as an example for? We are constantly developing our ability to be a role model. Those decisions for us do not have to be monumental. That could be making the decision to get in shape, or become deeper in our faith, or become fully committed to something—those decisions can mold us into stronger role models. It took me meeting Isaac and developing a close relationship with him to realize that it is our actions now that transform us into the person we are going to be. How are your actions making you a role model?
When I was in high school, I was involved in everything. I thought my success could be measured by how many medals I earned, how many offices I held, and by how many things I could list on my resume, and I was never truly invested. I was spread out so thin because I was not focusing my energy on one thing. My third check, was a reality check from Tate Tremblay of the Hill City FFA Chapter this year. The entire year I heard about Tate’s SAE. Tate’s SAE is Outdoor Recreation; he owns and operates a guided hunting experience operation that serves medically discharged veterans. He also founded the non-profit Christian based organization Patriots for Praise and provides hunting advice, guide service and hospitality for those that have sacrificed so much for our country. The scope and purpose of his operation has been able to have an impact deeper and wider than the experiences I ever had in high school.
Tate’s passion for his Supervised Agricultural Experience has made his impact much bigger than his individual actions. Tate now represents his non-profit organization, his chapter, and FFA. He has given selflessly to his community, and he asks for nothing in return. Wow! What am I doing in my life that’s even comparable to that? The reality check that Tate recognized was that by being truly invested in his passion he can represent a bigger purpose. We all are a part of something bigger—FFA. While there is a lot of work we put into our CDE’s, SAEs, or our leadership experiences, it at times may seem that it is not worth it— that our time could be spent better somewhere else. FFA gives us that satisfaction because when wearing this blue jacket we are a part of something much bigger than the name on the front. When we put on this FFA jacket we are ants, because we are just one in over 600,000. But Ants can carry up to 5,000 times their own body weight. Me individually—I am weak. There are over 8,850 members in this state—members that accomplish great things like Tate and you all in the audience. When wearing this FFA jacket we can accomplish over 8,850 times more than we can as individuals.
How is what you are most passionate about displayed in FFA? How is that that involvement allowing you to best represent the 600,000 members nationwide? Whether you are a freshman in high school, a chapter officer, or maybe you’re in college and you’re here to receive a proficiency award, but no matter who you are you make this organization what it is. There are so many opportunities to find your passion in FFA—that’s what makes us so strong. In everything we do we have the opportunity to represent something bigger than ourselves, whether that’s with our jobs, communities, or FFA. What purpose are you serving that is bigger than yourself?
These three checks that I have had in my life have made me who I am. Had it not been for my grandma constantly checking me, I would have not gained the values that make up my personality. If I would have not invested my check in Isaac, I would not have realized the power we hold as role models. Finally, had it not been for the reality check that Tate gave me, I would have not seen the importance of representing FFA, which is something bigger than myself. In each of these experiences I Had-a-chek, and it was my responsibility to cash it. Our time in FFA will never end with the memories, relationships, and growth that we’ve experienced. FFA allows us to share our story, serve as role models and show pride in this organization. We all have checks in our lives—or chances. It’s up to us whether we spend those checks on those that we represent, those we are role models for, or something with a greater purpose. Kansas FFA, cash your checks!!!