Lessons come wrapped in all types of boxes. Here are five lessons every 4-H member knows.
#5: You aren't going to win every time, and that's okay. How you lose is just as important as how you win.
There's no way you're going to get through life #1 all the time. Real champions accept the judge's rating, evaluate what they can do to improve, and try again. Time and again, life will give you opportunities to practice winning graciously and losing gracefully. The question to ask yourself is "Did I improve over my last attempt?" If the answer is yes, you've won regardless of the color of your ribbon. Perseverance.
#4: Time is your best friend or worst enemy. Learning to juggle multiple responsibilities will be a lifelong benefit.
Those who stay in 4-H through the busy teen years say that 4-H helps them prioritize work, allowing them to still participate actively in sports, music, church, or drama while maintaining an active 4-H life. How? They set goals. They communicate their commitments to coaches and leaders. They keep a calendar. They focus on important tasks and discard wasteful activities. They make good use of the time they have. 4-H helps kids learn that waiting to the last minute to finish assignments creates stress and often results in missed opportunities to excel. When they learn that lesson young, they remember it later in college and career. Focus.
#3: Stand out from the crowd by working harder than everyone else. Excellence shows without ever saying a word.
Just because our logo is a 4-leaf clover, don't think our success is just dumb luck. 4-H members know it's hard work, not luck, that produces the results they want. When you put hours of work in, it shows. If you've ever broken a calf to lead, rewritten code until the program runs, re-sewn uneven hems, or taught a dog to sit, you know success takes time and consistent effort. 4-H members know that hard work takes sacrifice. While friends are sleeping, 4-H members are up feeding livestock or watering gardens, producing the world's food. While friends go boating, 4-H members go visit colleges and industries to help determine their future course. While friends sit and visit, 4-H members and fellow club members are visiting with area elderly showing compassion for others. Nothing important is ever earned by being lazy or letting someone else do the work. Determination.
#2: You are either part of the solution or part of the problem. Choose wisely.
You have to show up when people are depending on you. 4-H members know they can't just walk away when it's their turn to lead. They don't sleep in when animals depend on them for daily needs. They don't turn their heads and assume someone else will cover their empty spot. They don't walk away when the challenge seems too hard. 4-H members learn to work as a team, knowing they are stronger together than they are individually. 4-H members work the problem in front of them, seek input from others, and then see the plan through. 4-H members become dependable students, employees and entrepreneurs. Dependability.
#1: Create the community in which you want to live. See yourself as a caring citizen of the world.
4-H members are 4 times more likely to engage in their community than their peers are. It's a researched fact. From a young age, 4-H members are intentionally engaged in community service projects. They are taught the virtues of generosity and given safe environments in which to practice service. They are included in every step of the decision-making process, from concept to action. They see themselves as part of the solution to today's problems. That's empowerment! That's leading with your heart! That's 4-H. Compassion.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager
Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.