As you many of you know, I grew up a 4-H kid. All summer I would have a countdown leading up to the great Darke County Fair. I loved everything about it! Showing my sheep, camping, and spending long days in the showing barns.
I haven’t missed a fair in my entire life, because to me the fair is more than a week of fun; it is what our country is so badly missing – tight-knit community that cheers each other on in the good times and the bad. We can look around and see an epidemic of loneliness far reaching throughout the nation, and it is wreaking havoc on society, especially our children.
Many people have tried to solve this problem of loneliness — some have succeeded and others have not. I’ve learned over time that to receive love, you must be open to giving it. In other words, you must give of yourself in the community before you can be part of a community.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how to give. Maybe the talents, time, or resources aren’t available to you and maybe you just don’t know where to go. I understand that, but community is available because community starts with you.
The fair is almost here. Students in our community have worked long days getting animals and projects ready for the fair. For some of the students this is a huge step outside their comfort zone. Whether it’s showing an animal, running for Junior Fair Board, or entering a cooking competition, they’ve chosen to put themselves out there in public to win or lose. It’s scary. I remember one year my sheep got loose in the arena and ran all over. I was embarrassed and crying by the end. But because of the encouragement of my parents and leaders around me, I tried again and didn’t give up.
For many students the fair is shaping much of their future, and determines how they react and act in challenging situations. Sometimes all one student needs is a bit of encouragement.
If you’re looking for community, the fair is the place to be. But don’t go looking to be a consumer of community. Go and give back! Volunteer at a local booth, encourage the students, sit in the stands and cheer them on, show up with a smile. Community is all around us and fair season is the time to open our eyes and invest time, love, and a smile.
Together let’s make our community great.
Jena Powell is a State Representative for the Ohio 80th House District