Winning and the lessons of empathy and leadership

Fair season brought on unique circumstances for some 4-H’ers.

I learned a very interesting and valuable lesson during the fair this year.  I met a young man who raised a cow and took it to the fair. This was a beef cow, not a dairy cow.  This young man won a ribbon at the fair and was quite proud of himself and the job he had done. When asked what he did differently in order to win, he responded by telling me that the price of feed skyrocketed this year and his family was able to afford it; a lot of other kids couldn’t buy enough feed to produce prize winning cows.

His maturity was striking, as well as his grasp of the situation. This young man, who was 16-years-old, was wise beyond his years. I thought about what a valuable lesson this could be to help young people understand that in this world, not everyone starts out with the same resources, and sometimes, that’s the reason for many of the inequalities in life. This young man understood this concept already and on top of that, he was already working to find ways to pass on his knowledge and even some of his resources in order help his fellow club members have a leg up for next year.

Talking about inequalities in life is almost always a difficult situation. Whether it has to do with race, gender, religion, money or any other category of our lives, there is often a lack of understanding on the part of the privileged, and anger and frustration on the part of the disadvantaged. Organizations across the country have spent millions of dollars trying to educate and train their employees in this concept. Our government has even gone as far as passing laws like affirmative action. Inequality is a complicated subject to talk about and it’s even more complicated to come up with solutions that are accepted as fair and equitable to everyone. According to Michigan State University Extension experts, this young 4-H’er understood it so completely that he wanted to make sure others could enjoy his success in the future. His 4-H experience gave him a sense of empathy that no amount of training could have taught him and because of this, he will give greater service to his club, his community, his country and his world.

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