In only one week, our kids have traveled miles with cattle kids from South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and probably a dozen other states of which I’m not aware. Our two oldest boys may need new shoes from all the miles they tread in seven days, and I know they need a good, long nap.
The best of all this? Their new friendships, new experiences, and many miles occurred within a space of roughly two city blocks only 250 miles from home.
Our first Junior National Hereford Exposition experience is nearly in the books. As we wrap up with some final fun, I know the benefits of this trip will last longer than mountains of laundry and will impact our family greater than the credit card statement will shock me.
My “mom heart” overflows with emotion as I think about the work and the fun our kids enjoyed this past week.
Our 11-year-old began breaking out of his shell and finding his own way with mentors who became friends. Our nine-year-old talks already about staying in touch “every week for forever” with his new friends from South Dakota and Pennsylvania.
I overheard conversations about Denver in 2019, discussions regarding the merit of pocket gophers, chats about new skills, and questions about the distance to this state or that. I saw kindness, patience, compassion, and respect. I felt a sense of camaraderie, family, and old-fashion rural community. The experience really was magical in an exhausting, dirty, ranchy sort of way … which is the best kind of way in my opinion.
While our experience away from home was more than I could have anticipated, the immense privilege in it all was not lost on me.
We could not have enjoyed such an experience if not for the sacrifices of others. Like most in attendance, our ranch work wasn’t done when I left, and if it had been, it wouldn’t have stayed that way.
For half of our clan to be gone for a week, it took an army of help from friends and family. Whether it was my dad taking off a week from his life or my mother-in-law making another week of adjustments to hers, our junior national experience wasn’t made possible by us. It hinged on other people.
We had the responsibility to fully enjoy and grow from the opportunity, and I like to think we have and will continue to do that. But, so many people played a vital role in getting–and keeping–us here.
As I’ve made a long list of people to thank, I wondered … how often do we all take the sacrifices of others for granted? And, how often is a heart-felt and face-to-face “thank you” enough?
I don’t have any easy answers because I know they are different for everyone.
Yet, I know this: our hotel and fairground maintenance staff made this trip a lot more comfortable. Was my daily thank you and smile really enough appreciation for cleaning the mess we cattle folk can make?
For me, those acts weren’t enough. I don’t have the financial means to tip each staff member generously, and I’m not convinced money is the answer. But, like most of you, I was raised with the grace and presence to respect those folks while not making their job any more difficult than it may already be.
Our garbage goes in the garbage can–not near it, by it, or thoughtlessly left elsewhere. Our hotel room is tidied quickly each morning with a note of thanks. These are teeny-tiny acts that I’ve been taught matter.
What about the fitting crew sent to help prepare for our first national show? Were the thanks, drinks, and donuts adequate when the pay was refused? In afterthought, no because it dawns on me I’m the ass who showed thanks without showing enough respect to even ask their names.
I don’t share any of this thinking anyone else can relate, and I don’t share this with any sort of judgement for people who do life differently. Perhaps this all speaks to my generally hidden crazy, but in a fast-paced, overly-connected, non-filtered world, I feel huge responsibility to make sure gratitude isn’t a lost feeling within our family … especially when our memories, experiences, and opportunities often come at the sacrifices of others.
Perhaps appreciation and gratitude are the greatest lessons I can learn in this chapter of our family’s story. Maybe–just maybe–Herefords and junior national helped us all grow a lot.