INSIGHT: Building Communities

Jackie Mundt, Pratt County farmer and rancher

I often joke about the fact that I love to judge people just like on American Idol. Except I am not qualified to judge musicians — my forte is public speaking. I love judging 4-H model meetings, FFA discussion meets and any other speaking contests. I enjoy sharing my life-tested knowledge in hopes of helping participants improve their skills for the future.

As much as I enjoy judging contests, it is a behavior I am constantly working to avoid in real life. Both my religion and my character remind me it is not my place to judge others. I rarely know all the details of a situation or the history that has shaped the people involved. More importantly, it is likely not any of my business, and I should just try to worry about judging my own actions and using my criticism to make myself a better person.

I am not perfect though. Lately there is one behavior that that turns my head and sends me into a judgmental spiral every time — passive selfishness. I am not talking about outright, obvious selfishness most of us see clearly and condemn.

I see passive selfishness as what happens when we let ourselves believe we as individuals do not have an obligation to the needs of our communities and our own desires are more important than what society needs.

For example, I can become irrationally infuriated if someone needs a reason to do something good, like donating blood. I can’t understand how a person doesn’t have guilt over the choice that could potentially save a life.

Community involvement might be the hardest-hit victim of passive selfishness. I remember a friend in college asking me why I would give up my nights and weekends for volunteer work or activities benefiting the college.

At the time, I was taken aback because growing up in a small farming town, I had been surrounded by community-oriented people my whole life. Since then, I have seen so many examples of people who want to live in thriving communities but won’t serve on boards or volunteer to help with events and others who complain about politicians on social media but don’t show up to town halls, vote or even run in opposition.
When we are willing to sacrifice our own comforts or desires, our communities are impacted in lasting ways. Sometimes it takes a small inconvenience like a needle prick and giving up an hour out of the 1,344 hours every eight weeks to save someone’s parent, sibling or child by donating blood. Other times it’s saying goodbye to the sweet dreams of sleeping in on Saturday to judge a 4-H speaking contest that encourages young people to grow their leadership and communication skills.

Raising your hand to serve your community often means giving up time that you could be spending on your priorities to do work that will benefit others. That time isn’t wasted it allows you to set an example of what it takes to make the world better and will often give you more satisfaction than accomplishing something that only benefits a single person.

It might seem like being selfish is the easy way, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that when you give, you receive so much more than you could ever imagine. I know we’re all guilty of the occasional personal indulgence, but it’s always good to reflect and really ask yourself if you could be doing more.  The only way our communities grow stronger is if people make the choice to put them first. We can make excuses, or we can make our communities better. I hope everyone can experience the benefits and rewards of making them better.

“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.