When I first agreed to serve in a leadership role for Dairy Girl Network, I don't think I fully understood the impact this role would have on my life.
In it's infancy, Dairy Girl Network was a way to help women in dairy get together for conversation and camaraderie. In the few short years since, Dairy Girl Network has become so much more. This is evident in our mission: The Dairy Girl Network supports all women in dairy by enhancing lives and creating opportunity.
My friend, Sarah, and I set out to create an opportunity for the dairywomen in our area. The result was a luncheon with two great speakers and lots of time for conversation. At the end of the event, we asked each woman there to share one thing they would remember from the presentations. This is what I've been reflecting on since the event:
Our first speaker, Paula, shared a lot of wisdom about stress management. One piece of advice she shared about coping with stress was the importance of connecting with other people. I found myself wondering, is this why Dairy Girl Network has grown so quickly? Are we deficient in connecting time? I think the answer is yes. Our lives are out of balance and that balance is tipped heavily towards taking care of everything else but ourselves.
Paula went on to share that connecting time is one of seven essential activities we need for optimal brain health. This concept of essential activities is part of The Healthy Mind Platter. This excerpt from the Mind Platter website says it better than I can:
"[We live in] an era of an epidemic of overwhelm. A time when too many people's mental wellbeing is being stretched through multitasking, fragmented attention, and information overload.
"The trouble is, we are short on simple, clear information about good mental habits. Few people know about what it takes to have optimum mental health, and the implications of being out of balance. It is not taught in schools, or discussed in business. The issue just isn't on the table. The result is that we stretch ourselves in ways that may have [huge] implications.
"The Healthy Mind Platter has seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in daily life. These seven daily activities make up the full set of 'mental nutrients' that your brain needs to function at it's best. By engaging every day in each of these servings, you enable your brain to coordinate and balance its activities, which strengthens your brain's internal connections and your connections with other people." - Drs. David Rock and Daniel Siegel, creators of The Healthy Mind Platter
This concept is so simple, yet so profound. If you have any interest in the wellbeing of your brain, I encourage you to take a look at the recommendations at www.mindplatter.com.
Our second speaker, Sherry, shared a number of great messages, but the one that resonated with me was: Encouragement matters.
"Instruction does much, but encouragement everything." - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As I interpreted it, we need to support our fellow women, but also remember how important it is to provide encouragement for spouses, children, and friends, regardless of gender. We also need to recognize and appreciate those who have encouraged us. This idea was reinforced later that evening.
After the Dairy Girl Network event on Friday, we went to Dan's first swim meet. Our whole family went, which meant asking our relief milker to come so we could be there for the 6:30 p.m. start.
I knew Dan needed our support at the meet. In the weeks leading up to Friday, Dan had asked multiple times, "Are you going to be there? Is Dad going to be there?"
Dan had told me that during practice, he would swim to the half-way point in the pool, swim back, and repeat that three times. That way, he was swimming more than two lengths of the pool, without having to swim into the deep end. To complete his race at the meet, he would have to swim into the deep end and the idea scared him.
We talked about it for days. Dan would say, "I can't do it." I would gently remind him that I believed he could. We have a saying for moments like these: "It's not 'I can't', it's 'I can try.'"
Before the meet I wrapped Dan up in a hug and reminded him that I believed in him. "All I want you to do is do your best," I said.
Glen said, "I know you can do this, Dan."
Dan's race started out great. Then, half way down the lane, where the water got deeper, he looked up and stalled. But he kept swimming. He reached out to grab the side of the pool a couple times, but he kept going forward. And he made it to the far end of the pool.
After his race, Dan came running up into the bleachers, soaking wet, clutching his ribbon, to hug Glen and me.
"I did it," he said proudly, with the biggest smile on his face.
How many times do we let fear override our dreams before we even start?
I believe that our gentle encouragement helped Dan achieve what he thought wasn't possible.
I believe, too, that Dairy Girl Network will continue to enhance women's lives by providing opportunities to connect and to encourage one another.
In turn, this encouragement will enhance all lives. When we encourage others, we encourage ourselves. The light we shine on others reflects back on us.