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January 26, 2024
There’s a story that Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce tells about his time playing college football.
A coach reportedly told him, “Everyone you meet in this world is either a fountain or a drain.” We have a choice to be someone who fills a space with positive energy, or someone who drains that positivity through our words and actions.
Boy, talk about a profound insight for how we should interact with our families, our farms, our communities and strangers. And it’s a skill we’re going to need to hone if we’re going to build our rural communities into places where people want to live, and not places from which they want to flee.
I’ve been a draining presence in my past, I’m sure. I still have my moments today, and I will likely have them in the future, to be quite honest. We all have those moments.
We sit next to someone at a meeting with a different view on how to farm and instead of listening with the intent to learn, we immediately launch into a one-sided tirade listing 50 ways how they’re wrong and going to fail. And in one interaction, we’ve solidified that person’s notions about all farmers.
We sit on boards for local schools and community organizations, and when we’re presented with a new idea, we dismiss it because it defies tradition, or it jeopardizes our worldviews. And yet, we can’t understand why young families don’t flock to our communities to live.
An adult child approaches us to talk about taking more responsibility on the farm, and we ignore them and tell them they’re too young and we know better. And we wonder why they choose to work in town instead of returning to the farm.
Those draining moments add up to one big sucking sound.
Look, I get it. For so many of us, it’s not in our natures to be a filling presence. Farmers and ranchers have a reputation for being “crusty” for a reason.
And to be a fountain doesn’t mean that you just skip through life oblivious to problems or always saying “yes.” It just means that we try to be a filling influence.
Being a fountain means listening, not with the intent for a rebuttal, but to try to understand what the other person is saying. Approach the conversation to learn another viewpoint and not as some winner-take-all brawl, and you may just come away with an insight into how someone approaches the topic that you never imagined — and then can work on a solution that you never would have discovered on your own.
A fountain looks for ways to lift others into leadership positions, so they can take ownership of the activity. Or, as one of my friends would say, a fountain knows when to hand over the keys of the combine to the 40-year-old son or daughter and advise from the cab of the grain truck.
It’s true, you don’t have to bother with this. No one is holding your feet to the fire to be a fountain and not a drain.
I can’t say for sure that this technique will bring you success, fame or a Super Bowl ring. I can’t guarantee that changing your mindset will even fix your chronic halitosis or mild dandruff problem.
But visualize a drain. The water goes in, and out, and leaves an empty basin, right? We, ourselves, become even more empty the more we drain positivity out of the space.
Now visualize a fountain. The water recirculates. It shoots into the air in a pleasing display. A few droplets might evaporate off and go do other good works in the atmosphere. But when the water lands, it fills the basin and is available for more dazzling displays. When we put good out there, good comes back around.
It’s worth a shot, don’t you think?
Editor, Kansas Farmer
Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.
Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.
While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.
She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.
Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.
Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.
“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”
She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.
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