December 2005
4-H Extension Corner

4-H Extension Corner

  This Alabama Volunteer contingent attended the 2005 annual regional conference at Rock Eagle in Georgia.
What a wonderful season of the year! It’s the time to honor our agricultural heritage and celebrate the harvest. We give thanks for the bounty the earth provides, and we enter into the festive Christmas season. Remember the real gift for this season!

It’s the time for family and friends, social and religious festivities, and occasions for giving and receiving. We contemplate the year ahead, and we begin to consider our plans and our resolutions.

In Alabama 4-H, it is an especially exciting period. We are constantly seeking to respond to the changing needs and interests of Alabama’s young people, to provide them with the skills they will need to lead a world that is different from the world into which we adults were raised.

We are introducing a number of innovative projects and activities to help "Make the Best Better." These include exciting projects that teach rural and urban kids to think creatively and to adapt modern technology to traditional problems.

Through our new "Present It with Power" activity, young people will use PowerPoint to commemorate The Four Freedoms. "eXtreme Birdhouse" and "Blocks Rock!" will teach design and construction, and "Chef 4-H" will let Alabama kids present their culinary skills just like Emeril does. And there are Science, Technology and many other fine, new programs.

As you start your new year, please consider how you can help young people through 4-H, aiding with your time and your resources. Whether you want to establish a 4-H scholarship or just help send a young person to a national or regional event, your financial support is needed and valued.

If you have an interest in assisting young people, please consider getting involved as a 4-H volunteer. Perhaps you have a passion such as computers, cooking, or raising hunting dogs. Dozens of special interests can be linked directly to 4-H youth development. Steers, skateboards, or community gardens can each teach responsibility, communications, and planning.

Perhaps next year you could even join us for our annual regional volunteer conference at Rock Eagle in Georgia. This year we had the largest group ever – and we hope to have even more in 2006.

Over the past several columns, we have been talking about Leading With Character, our Alabama approach to character education. We have focused on the six pillars of character cited by the CHARACTER COUNTS!™ Coalition. These values, which transcend divisions of race, creed, politics, gender and wealth, are: Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. Given the season of the year, it is especially timely to think about Caring.

Caring means showing concern for the welfare of others. It means being kind, compassionate, and doing things to show you care. Caring people express thanks to others; they forgive others for mistakes; and they help others in need. Caring people consider how their decisions, words and actions might affect everyone around them. They treat others as they would like to be treated themselves.

If you are a 4-H livestock or small animal exhibitor, you have many opportunities to show that you are a caring person. First, you can show caring behavior with the other exhibitors, club members and family members with whom you work. Second, you can show caring behavior toward the animals themselves.

We must consider both the needs and feelings of other people. An example of another exhibitor’s need would be the need of a first time exhibitor to learn proper showmanship skills. An example of their feelings would be their sadness if they asked people for tips on showmanship, and no one would tell them anything. As for the animals, while they don’t have feelings, we still must consider their needs, such as the need for daily feeding and watering.

Caring exhibitors will show caring behavior to other people by:

• Showing kindness and under-standing to ALL people;

• Sharing resources and equipment with other exhibitors;

• Including first time exhibitors in their circle of friends;

• Encouraging exhibitors who seem to be struggling and offering to assist or coach them;

• Helping exhibitors with handicaps or special needs;

• Saying "thank you" to people for even the small things they do;

• Congratulating other exhibitors who have worked hard and achieved success;

• Working unselfishly to improve the lives of other people by sharing time and resources without expecting anything in return;

• Avoiding being mean or cruel, or disregarding others’ feelings.

Caring exhibitors will show caring behavior with their animals by:

• Staying alert to the needs of the animals;

• Carrying through on responsibilities, such as daily feeding and watering;

• Using grooming and training methods that do not cause any physical stress to the animals.

Now let’s take a test. Can you identify whether they are examples of caring or uncaring behavior?

1. Offering tips on fitting to first time exhibitors.

2. Teasing another exhibitor whose animal got loose in the show ring.

3. Providing clean, cool water for your animals at all times.

4. Practicing showmanship with another exhibitor who has asked you for help.

5. Doing ALL the grooming and fitting on your little brother’s calves.

6. Offering to share your fitting equipment with another exhibitor who doesn’t have any.

7. Taking a sick animal to a show.

8. Piling manure in an unused stall in the barn, rather than taking it to where you know it should go.

9. Saying "thank you" to the volunteers and extension staff who organized the show.

You should recognize numbers 1, 3, 4, 6, and 9 as examples of caring behavior; and numbers 2, 5, 7 and 8 are examples of uncaring behavior.

What could you do to turn the examples of uncaring behavior into examples of caring behavior? Aren’t these some great opportunities for us adults to lead by the examples we set?

2) Do you enjoy being teased? Rather than teasing, you should try to encourage that exhibitor to try again. If you have had similar experiences, perhaps you can offer suggestions.

5) Why isn’t doing grooming for your brother showing that you care? Simply doing everything for him does not show caring. If you care, help him develop his own skills. You should offer to help and give advice. Then he will develop his own skills.

7) Taking a sick animal to a show is showing uncaring behavior, both to the animal and to other exhibitors. The animal should be allowed to stay in familiar surroundings and recover. Other exhibitors should not have to risk their animals getting sick because they were exposed to a sick animal.

8) Who is going to clean up that unused stall? Someone will have to do it! By dumping the manure, you are ignoring the feelings of the person who will have to clean up after you.

Be kind • Be compassionate and show you care • Express gratitude • Forgive others • Help people in need

Until next time, God Bless!

James Shropshire is the Alabama 4-H Regional Extension Agent for the Central Alabama Region.