I began my 4-H journey as a Cloverbud when I was 5-years-old. Now I'm 20 and am starting to learn just how much of an impact 4-H has had on my life.
I knew that I had grown when I went from the child that was too scared to leave home to go to 4-H camp to the child that was excited to fly to Atlanta, Georgia for National 4-H Congress. I grew from the girl that was scared to talk to the clerk at the store turned into the woman that wants to be a motivational speaker. I grew to win ribbons, trophies and awards for my accomplishments.
But I never knew how much I would grow into the person I am today because of 4-H.
I never knew how much I would appreciate the parliamentary procedures that I learned in 4-H. Sitting through meetings as a child I was initially confused by all of the steps to make a motion. Why would I ever want to stand up and make a motion when I could mess up one of the steps?
Years went by and I grew. I learned the importance of each step of proper parliamentary procedure and how chaotic meetings are when the rules are ignored. I grew into the person that lead meetings as my 4-H club's president and county 4-H council president.
During honor society meetings and conferences, people don't understand why I get so frustrated when a meeting is not called to order correctly, motions aren't seconded or when gavels are misused.
It's because I was taught the right way to conduct a meeting through 4-H.
I realize that not everyone gets the opportunity to grow up in a world where meetings are conducted using Robert's Rules of Order. I realize that there are a lot of rules and it gets confusing. But I didn't realize until recently how much I had taken those lessons for granted.
I've received several compliments on my clothing when I attend events. Some of this is because I take pride in my appearance, but it's also because I learned how to dress appropriately for different occasions through 4-H. There's a vast difference between business casual attire and business formal attire.
4-H taught me how to dress for success.
More importantly, 4-H taught me how to afford to dress for success. They were never fun to fill out, but the cost per wear forms taught me how to put together outfits that maximized my budget.
It's a lot easier to think about the practicality of something before I buy it. Is the price worth how much use I'll get out of something? It may cost more initially, but sometimes an investment saves money later when you don't have to purchase the same thing again.
It's because of 4-H that I realize you only get out what you put in.
You can join an organization and say you were a member for 12 years or you can be an active member for 12 years and have more to add to your resume. Either option is perfectly fine, but the more you put into something the more you will gain. You can't expect to turn the dial on a gumball machine and get a gumball without putting a quarter into the slot.
That being said, you have to prioritize your resources and know how much you can put into something. "It's just an hour or two that I'll be giving to the organization," only works when you have an hour or two to give to the organization. It works better for everyone when you have an hour or two that you can give your all to the organization.
Thanks to 4-H I know sometimes you have to say "no" to the organization you love.
You can't pledge your head to clearer thinking when you have too much on your schedule.
You can't pledge heart to greater loyalty when you're loyal to too many things.
You can't pledge your hands to larger service when they're already full of other responsibilities.
You can't pledge your health to better living unless you take the time to prioritize your health.
Even though I am no longer a 4-H member, I am forever thankful of 4-H and the lessons I learned because of it. I am 4-H grown and proud of it.