Missing My Volunteer Duties This Year

So this is kind of an off-the-wall post, but I figure I can’t be the only one who is missing the opportunity to volunteer this year because of the pandemic. So here goes.

I typically volunteer with a month-long program called Close Encounters with Agriculture. It’s run by the local Extension office and brings volunteers to our county’s Ag History Farm Park to help teach local fourth-graders about different aspects of agriculture. We cover things like soil health, nutrition, grains and corn production, where our food comes from, farm animals, etc.

In normal years, the kids would take a field trip from the school and come to the farm. We even have hands-on activities, like petting the goats and the pony, or a relay race and a quiz game. It’s a lot of fun, and (usually) the kids come away with a lot of exposure to agriculture or new ideas.

Some of these kids may have never seen a goat in-person before. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard a kid exclaim about something they have seen or done for the first time by coming to the program. It’s immensely rewarding to see how some of the kids really appreciate their day “on the farm.”

It’s valuable to me, as well. It’s an opportunity to reconnect with my own background. I come from a farming family on my dad’s side, and I rode horses and worked at stables since I was a kid. I’ve been too long away from the stable the past couple of years, but I hope to change that soon. But by volunteering with the Close Encounters program, I get to not only be around a horse again, but hopefully also impart some of my passion and knowledge for horses to these kids who may not know anything at all about a horse.

You may be wondering how this relates to the blog. Valid question. This is a mostly writing/book blog, after all.

I can relate this to the theme in a bunch of ways. One: Change your scenery. A lot of those kids who come to the farm park rarely actually play outside. They’re so excited that it’s hard to get them to pay attention sometimes. But you can tell that being outside is not a common occurrence. Like the change in scenery is good for the kids, the change in scenery is good for adults. Change it up to refresh your body and mind, and you’ll probably find that your writing gets a reboot as well.

Two: Nature has lessons for us. Everything has its time, with nature. Slow down, relax, and breathe in your surroundings. What do you see? What do you feel? Connect with your senses. Now how can you fold that into your writing? Maybe your descriptions will become more vivid or your scenes richer.

Three: Learn new things. Expand on your knowledge and you’ll probably find you have new ideas for books in short order. Maybe pick one thing that you’ve always wanted to learn and start exploring it more.

And finally, Four: Volunteering can be rewarding. My background enables me to volunteer with that specific program with ease, and my schedule normally allows me to pick the days I can give without compromising my day job. Obviously, not everyone has a background in agriculture or horses. So pick something that you enjoy, or know how to do, and give back to your community. That may be more difficult during a pandemic than normal, but it wouldn’t surprise me if some volunteer programs have moved online as well. Maybe you could volunteer to read to elderly folks in nursing homes over a Zoom that the home has set up. Or mentor folks on writing or language. Think expansively – but also think about what would be rewarding for you to participate in. If you’re passionate about a subject or activity, that will transmit to the folks you’re helping, and maybe they’ll enjoy it more as well.

Good luck! I hope this hasn’t been too much of a digression. And if you want to know more about the Close Encounters with Agriculture program, head to the Extension website here: https://extension.umd.edu/montgomery-county/agriculture/close-encounters-agriculture

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