Southern Hospitality

In early January, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to South Africa as a part of the International Leadership Seminar for State Officers. We spent about 10 days in country, touring different farming operations and national landmarks. Since I’ve returned from our journey, many have asked me what my favorite part of the trip was. I want to answer by saying “All of it!” However, if I were to narrow it down to one thing, it would be the people.

A lot of the people I met in SA enjoyed laughter. It seemed like almost everyone had a light sense of humor. For instance, while we were in Cape Town, our group visited Table Mountain. To reach the top, we rode in a cable car which was driven by a young gentleman with quite the sense of humor (a scary combination, I know).

As the car was about to depart we were all a bit anxious about the 3,500-foot climb in the tiny little car. Our driver must have sensed this and said “Ladies and gentlemen, don’t worry. This is my first time too.” It was the jokes and laughter that I really enjoyed about South Africans.

Generally, most South Africans were very kind and hospitable towards our group. When we would arrive at a hotel or restaurant, we were greeted at the door and handed a cool drink. It amazed me how everyone was so willing to serve.

Thinking about our own lives here in the United States, how can we be kind and welcoming to others? Perhaps there’s a new student at our school and they haven’t made any friendships yet. Maybe there’s someone sitting by themselves at a school dance because no one has asked him or her to dance with them. At a CDE this spring you may notice that there is a nervous FFA member standing next to you who could use some comfort.

How will you respond? Will you act with kindness like the people of South Africa and extend a hand of service? Will you go out of your way to talk to the new student? Will you ask the forgotten to dance? Will you calm the nervous member by cracking a joke? H. Jackson Brown Jr. once said, “Earn your success based on service to others, not at the expense of others.” How will you be known, through cheating the needy by not giving of yourself to them, or by serving them with a smile?

Living to Serve,

John Kennedy
2017-2018 Kansas FFA Vice President