“Begin each day with a grateful heart.” This has been my theme for the past several months. You don’t need me to outline the challenges our world faces – in 2020 and every other year. As a world, we may all be in the same storm, but everyone is in a different boat. It’s certainly not my place to say how easy or difficult these challenges are to overcome. However, no matter which boat you are in, a grateful heart makes the roughest storms seem more like a rain shower. It makes 60 seconds seem like more than just a minute and allows us to love the deepest scars in ourselves and others. It enhances the beauty of the lightest and darkest moments we face. A grateful heart makes the smallest things seem like the biggest miracles.
When I was eight years old, I remember finding two duck eggs under a pine tree at my grandparents’ home in Chatfield. I saw these two little eggs and thought about what it would be like to hatch them into ducklings. Hesitant to bring them inside – for fear that they would turn into breakfast – I placed them under a lamp. After doing a little research, I discovered that I needed this thing called an incubator. By the end of the day, I had gone to Tractor Supply and set up an incubator where I placed my two pieces of treasure.
When I started hatching these eggs, I had no idea how to do it. All I knew was that I saw a potential in these eggs, and I wanted to fulfill it. After a bit of learning, growing, and working, I ended up hatching two white Pekin ducks and dozens of ducklings after that. What started as a small discovery under a pine tree over time resulted in hundreds of ducklings, a place in the poultry community, and countless 4-H projects.
One small discovery: that’s all it started with. Seeing potential: that’s what created the result. The story of hatching these two little eggs has been something that we can all learn from. Seeing the potential in something small can turn into something great. All of us have a starting place with great potential to fulfill. Everyone has potential. As leaders, it should be our aim to help others find inspiration, not in ourselves, but in themselves, so they can fulfill their potential.
It is my goal to seek and fulfill potential. I chose to run for National FFA Office because I believe agricultural education is a powerful tool to make this difference. By the time this article is published, I will be one of 38 candidates from across the country to have completed the week-long National FFA Officer interview process. From October 27-29, the National FFA Convention will have virtual experiences for many people: FFA members, teachers, alumni, stakeholders, etc. Live sessions will air on television through RFD-TV. This includes the final session on Thursday, October 29 at 6 p.m., which includes the election of the new FFA officer team. Upon the election of the new team, six individuals will spend a year carrying out the FFA mission through travel, virtual collaboration, and all other innovative strategies come from the uniqueness of the year. Inevitably, the next six individuals on the team will make the most of the upcoming year and find gratitude in every opportunity. The other 32 individuals, which may include myself, will continue to fulfill their purposes in another capacity.
Finding a purpose doesn’t happen alone. I have been fortunate enough to discover my passion for discovering and fulfilling potential because of the people in my life. I have found support through many of my educators, peers, and mentors. One notable mentor who I am endlessly grateful for is Ms. Sarah Dornink, who has experience on the U of M campus working in ag ed and also shares the value of growing up in Fillmore County. Scott Winslow has also been another mentor to me in many capacities. In particular, he has taught me the value of service and humility through his quiet works on the farm and as an advocate. (There’s also no better teacher for driving combine.) Key educators like Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Whitacre, Ms. Nielsen, Miss Fritz (Chatfield), and many others have taught me how to build both technical skills and character. They have helped me discover my potential and work towards my potential. My dad, Todd Ristau, has been my rock through high school and the transition to college. He has taught me the value of hard work and gratitude by seeing life as 10% what happens to you and 90% what you make out of it. Finally, the Wingert and Biel families, the agriculture community, and so many others have invested their time, talent, and resources into me. With a grateful heart, I look forward to paying these deeds forward in whatever capacity I am intended to pursue.
Through all the highs and lows, I am grateful for everything Fillmore County has invested in me. From spending several months learning and growing to prepare for interviews to learning what it means to find potential in others after finding two little duck eggs, I have many experiences I hope to continue to share. Thanks to Jason Sethre and the staff at Fillmore County Journal, I have been able to do this quite regularly through this series of articles. As I finish the final article in this series as a National FFA officer candidate, I hope to leave one thing: gratitude. I give my gratitude to everyone who has helped form me into who I am today, and I hope that a bit more gratitude will make all of our lives better. The little sign on my roommate’s desk says it best: “Be obsessively grateful.”