From trying the green chili cream to watching the sunrises over the desert mountains, my week in Las Cruces, New Mexico was filled with new experiences. I had never been close to a pecan tree and was not used to seeing cacti as an ordinary plant dotting the landscape.
As much as I loved seeing and learning about the culture, traditions, and agriculture of New Mexico, my favorite moments were as much as I spent with the people there.
The New Mexico FFA is one of the smaller state associations, but its talent and energy is second to none. They were unable to host a state convention entirely in person and instead recorded sessions with a small live audience that will be broadcast to all members later in the summer.
With pipes and curtains set up on a carpeted stage in a small church auditorium, cameras and additional lighting aplenty, the room felt like a combination of a comfortable studio recording session and a youth group meeting.
As soon as the seats were filled with 25-30 family, friends and former state officers, I was shocked at how suddenly it looked like a convention hall with thousands of people just standing by. because of the energy and passion of officers and guests.
While I often find very few familiar faces when visiting a new state, my time in Las Cruces brought me together with a whole group of former state officers who served the same year I was Secretary of State. State of Illinois FFA. With the current team, these former officers welcomed me to their state with open arms, even those I had not seen for nearly three years.
They’ve included me in their lunches at the famous local Mexican restaurant, their nightly shopping at Sonic, and their conversations about what we’ve learned about FFA, farming, and the world around us since we first met. As the week went on, I began to think more about the importance of persevering in these relationships.
How many times do we go to an event and a “network” but we just shake hands and exchange numbers? If our networking is just for the purpose of adding a name to our list and a business card to a stack in our drawer – which we probably forget most of the time – we are probably doing it wrong.
These New Mexico friends were some of the most genuine humans I have met from the first day we shook hands until the next time we saw each other, three years later.
We became real friends because we didn’t worry about raising our perceived status by knowing the most names in the room, but instead focused on building deep relationships on shared values ââand humanity. I’m convinced that’s why we could always pick up a conversation like we’ve never left it, years later and in different roles.
Sydney, Denny and the rest of their old cohort of officers contributed to my delightful experience in the South West because we were friends before my visit.
The newly retired team, who organized the convention, made my time useful because we have built the same types of bonds that I know, in three years time, will still be strong.
These officers weren’t trying to pretend to perfect. They took the time to have real and meaningful conversations with me about each of our unique perspectives on life and leadership and they welcomed me into their hearts and lives during one of the most stressful and uncertain times. of their life.
They were not only hosting and presenting an entire state convention, but also had to decide what to do with their lives now that the blue corduroy FFA jacket was no longer their compass. It was a distinct honor to be part of their circle for the week.
How do we seek to make truly meaningful connections when we meet new people? This does not mean that we should try to become the best friends of every person we meet; in fact, it is almost the opposite. I believe that focusing on the quality of relationships rather than the amount of knowledge is the best way to add value to the people in our lives.
Be friendly with everyone, but invest time in these new faces where the most authentic and meaningful relationships can be cultivated. Then when you meet these people on the road again, you’ll be like Denny and Sydney: kind, genuine, and happy to make an old friend feel at home in a new place.
Miriam Hoffman, of Earlville, Ill., Is the FFA’s national vice president for the eastern region. She graduated in Agribusiness Economics from Southern Illinois University.