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Priceless gifts for our children

TAGS: Farm Life
iStock/Getty Images Gift Shiny Box Christmas Red White Color Package Wrapping Paper Satin Ribbon
Teach your kids that shared values like hard work and respect mean more than political signs in your neighbor’s yard.

At the end of a year most of us would rather forget, the grain market offered a big fat Christmas present, thanks to yield shortfalls, ad hoc government payments and brisk exports.

Maybe that’s Mother Nature’s sense of humor kicking in, as she has for most of 2020.

I’ve got some other gift ideas for your kids this Christmas season, and they don’t come with ribbons, bows, or even a price tag. As usual these gift ideas came to me via our most valuable resource: our readers.

These are the gifts you pass on to your children – the kind they will keep and use for the rest of their lives. They are free to consider, yet priceless if they make a difference.

Coming unglued

It all started when I asked for reactions to a survey which posed the question, “What keeps farmers up at night?” Respondents were worried about markets and weather of course, but also the future of the country. Did I say worried? Panicked might be a better word. Political upheaval, entrenched ideologies, riots, racism, polarization, and an acrimonious election on top of a pandemic – it’s all causing the country to come unglued. We are a nation divided.

“What keeps me up at night is the world we are leaving to our children,” wrote Kim Purvis, a third generation farmer who farms with her husband, brother and parents near Prophetstown, IL. They have three kids age 21, 18 and 14.  

“I fear the future they face,” she says. “We have stopped teaching our kids the values that have made this country strong in the past, and the values that have been especially inherent in farm families and farming communities.”

So that’s the first gift idea: Teach your kids that shared values like hard work and respect mean more than political signs in your neighbor’s yard. Teach them to be compassionate and inclusive.

The gift of tolerance

Just because someone thinks or acts differently than you does not mean they are wrong. So, another gift you can pass along is tolerance. Kim worries that we can no longer agree to disagree respectfully.

“We must demonize others to try to prove one side is right,” she says.

This year we stopped listening to each other. You could see it in the dumpster fire scrolls raging on social media. We started name calling, which, unfortunately, is something young people pick up on when they see their parents, or worse, their political leaders, do the same.

Let’s teach our children that our country will only move forward and heal if we agree to disagree at times.

“We need to teach our children to be strong in their beliefs, stand-up for their convictions, but have compassion and respect for those with whom we disagree,” says Kim.

The gift of compromise

Kim worries that we are raising kids that will only know how to criticize and make demands, all from behind a computer screen or a phone, with no idea how to be part of solving problems together, and without taking ownership in creating progress in our communities and nation. 

“I fear our youth will have no idea what ‘We The People’ even means,” she writes. 

Most of us as parents taught our kids how to get along with each other. If your side lost, you looked the other person in the eye, shook their hand, and said, “nice game, congrats.”

But when children see grown adults in Washington or the statehouse do the exact opposite, it’s hard to make those home lessons resonate.

Remember when Congress worked with the President? It seems almost quaint, now. They debated each other, then compromised on the best plan. The answer was never black or white; it was some shade of gray, and we all lived with it.

That’s the opposite of being polarized. It wasn’t perfect for either side, but it was good enough to solve a problem and move on.

And so it should be with the rest of us, from our state governments down to our local church, school or farm group. Let’s pledge to do that, from now forward.

We don’t solve anything by shouting over each other or flaming the fires on social media. I don’t want to stay stuck in that rut, and we darn sure don’t want this to be the world our children inherit.

Farm families have enough to worry about with weather, markets and other Black Swans we don’t even know about yet.

It’s time to remember that unity is one of our country’s core values. We’ll need that more than ever as we face the oncoming challenges of 2021.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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