July 2007
4-H Extension Corner

Welcome to our July letter! As you read this, we are right at the biggest holiday of the summer. What comes to mind – fireworks, cook-outs, friends or family? All of these are very good and well, but we need to make sure this year that we think of FREEDOM! Whether it is spiritual or physical, we need to be proud that we live in the United States of America. The land of the free and home of the brave! Many men and women have lost their limbs and lives for what we sometimes take for granted! Say thank you today to someone that has served our country or has family serving now.

I wanted to pull out a few words of encouragement written by our forefathers many years ago. The first is part of our Constitution.

The Constitution of the United States of America, September, 7, 1787:

We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessing of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the United States of America.

 "Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge and Middleton. At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

We need to remember fewer and fewer politicians, judges and the general public have farm backgrounds or know what hard work takes place to feed our country and many others.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
A Declaration of Independence:

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Lincoln’s Address at Gettysburg, 1863:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

I am PROUD to be an American and hope that you love and support this great country that we call HOME! Take a moment and sing (maybe just with your inner voice), God Bless America!!!!

If that doesn’t give you goose bumps, check your patriotism! We today can work with youth in 4-H from all across America because we are free to choose what we want to do.

Over the past months, I have often written about what it means for us adults to be good role models for kids. If we love to learn, the kids around us will love to learn. If we eat right and get exercise, so will our kids or grandkids. Our actions always speak much more loudly than what we say.

The same thing holds true for our personal commitment to "doing unto others." When we provide our support to people in need, we serve as an example to young people. Although I would love for you to spend your time and energy working with young people through 4-H, there are many other ways that you can share your time and resources with your community: through groups such as Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, your local schools or faith-based groups.

It’s human nature to ask: "Well, what’s in it for me?" As anyone who volunteers knows, the rewards are great. First of all, helping others provides opportunities to make a difference in someone else’s life. Any time you hear someone griping about how awful the world is, ask them what they are doing to make it better. By volunteering, you can help create the kind of community and world you want.

The array of rewards is diverse. Volunteerism helps you learn about your community. If you work with kids, you are constantly learning about young people – what it means to be a kid in Twenty-First Century Alabama. That’s an education in itself!

Volunteerism helps you build your leadership and communications skills, while serving as a valued member of a team. For younger people, it helps enhance your resume while exploring possible careers. Whether you are young or old or somewhere in between, there is no better way of meeting new friends who share your enthusiasm and interests.

For people of all ages, volunteerism is also a great way to share a skill that you have mastered. Do you have a passion for quilting, photography, wood-working, hunting or fishing? Do you know about raising emus or even how to balance a checkbook? I know that an effective local 4-H program will find a way for you to share your skills and interests with your community’s youth.

An extra special benefit for older people relates to the notion of "use it or lose it." We all know seniors who find a way to stay active and alert because of their involvement as volunteers. Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation between seniors’ volunteerism and their mental and social health. Unfortunately, research also shows that senior citizens are less likely than younger Americans to volunteer for community service but, when they do, they devote many more hours to the effort.

Winston Churchill may have said it best: "You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give." Most of us have done a moderately good job of figuring out how to make a living. But making a life is an ongoing journey and service to others is an important step along the way.

Until next time, God Bless!

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..