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3 cheers for a normal summer

Nathan Spangler and Leah Sargeant in Washington, DC
REPRESENT: The FFA Washington Leadership Conference took a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus and was back in 2022. Nathan Spangler and Leah Sargeant represented Illinois’ Bushnell Prairie-City FFA.
What’s it mean to take a mission trip or go to Washington, D.C., or counsel at camp? It’s normal — and normal is everything when you’re a teenager.

FFA trips. Mission trips. Cattle shows. Church camp.

They’re back, baby. What a relief.

For real, I looked around a couple of weeks ago and exhaled in deep gratitude: All three of our kids were doing stuff that didn’t happen last summer or the summer before, due to COVID-19.

Jenna, 19, was counseling at our local church camp and spent three weeks at a retreat in Lake Geneva, Wis. Nathan, 17, was in Washington, D.C., for FFA’s Washington Leadership Conference. And Caroline, 14, was in West Virginia, helping repair houses with our church youth group.

They had a ball, because it was normal. And fun. And COVID didn’t cancel it.

These kids have an idea what lost life experience looks like. That FFA WLC trip? Jenna was supposed to go on it back in 2020, and it was a real sad day when she learned it wouldn’t happen due to the pandemic. Pretty sure we got that cancellation email the same week the county fair was canceled, and let me tell you, that was a tough week.  

Teenagers everywhere missed out on foundational experiences in 2020 and 2021. They missed out on the kinds of stuff that give them direction in life and help them realize what they’re good at and what they might like to try next. They missed out on friendships and opportunities to broaden their horizons and see life from someone else’s perspective.

I want to say they won’t take experiences like this for granted now, but let’s be real: They’re teenagers, and that’s what they do. And that’s normal, too.

But they are grateful for the chance. And so are we.

What kind of experiences did your farm kids get this summer, that haven’t happened in a couple of years? Let me know!

Comments? Email [email protected].

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