Being positive in a broken world

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Ohio farm

Well, the year of 2017 is almost in the books. As I get older, I find myself becoming more nostalgic as each year comes to a close.

December is a great time to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are headed.

Reflection is something I have learned many people consider a luxury. We are too busy with the doing and often neglect the being.

So if it pleases, I would like to share with you some of my recent reflections.

Reflection 1

How can we be better “salt & light” for others?

Over 20 years ago, one of my first farm visits as a young county agent was at the dairy farm of Loren and Nancy Ring. They were so very gracious to me on this early visit and on each visit thereafter.

Loren and Nancy began this farm in 1960 and it grew into a vibrant business which continues to this day under the leadership of their son Jeff and his wife Carole.

They were early adopters in tiling their land and in raising high-quality forages in our poor soils in Ashtabula County. They have always had one of the highest producing Jersey herds in Ohio.

In short, this family knows cows.

But what has always struck me more about Loren and Nancy was not their milk production, forage quality, or the management of their herd, but rather their humbleness, grace and faith.

Sadly, Loren passed away on Nov. 29. I find peace in knowing that Loren is now at home and we will meet again.

Loren and Nancy never hid their light under a bowl and I appreciate the light which they shone my way and to others in our community.

Reflection 2

Have we lost the meaning of Christmas?

Later this month, families all over the world will gather together to celebrate Christmas. In an ideal world the holiday stretch would be all sunshine and roses. But we know better, right?

The holidays can be a stressful time for many. Family conflicts can surface, financial struggles bubble up as we try to keep up with the “Jones” in our materialistic society, and people who are introverted in nature can really get stressed due to the overload of people-time.

I bet each of you could make a list of things that stress you during the holidays.

For many, Christmas is not the celebration of the greatest gift, but rather a pile of presents, gift cards and over-indulgence.

My sincere hope for each of you is that you celebrate Christmas for its real reason.

That this year, Christmas will be a celebration of the greatest gift not a pile of stuff.

Reflection 3

How can we be more positive in a broken world?

I will admit I do not watch the news much anymore. I just feel so emotionally drained after watching it. All I can think about is the song, A Little Good News, which Anne Murray sang in the early 1980s.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see a headline say, “not much to print today, can’t find nothing bad to say.”

Today now more than ever we need positive people to stand up and lead the way. We need to help each other stay positive and spread kindness.

One of my colleagues at Michigan State University shared that the human brain has 70,000 thoughts each day. You can’t always avoid difficult situations, but you can choose the thoughts you have when you experience them and how you react.

My friend and colleague Emily Adams shared in a recent column some advice when the negativity of the world starts to grind at you.

She suggests that just by taking a brisk ten-minute walk can reduce the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in the brain by 50 to 70 percent.

She also reminds us to remember to breathe deeply. Under stressful conditions, we tend to take more shallow breaths. It is recommended to take five deep breaths and release the air slowly.

What the heck-go ahead and try it! No better time to give it a try than right now.

Final reflection

What reflections do you have as we close out the year? I encourage you to think of how you can be the kind of “salt and light” which spreads kindness and love to others.

To close, I would like to share a reflection from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross who stated, “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth — and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”

Have a good and safe holiday season!

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