JACK'S INSIGHTS: Change, and what comes with it

 Jack Whittier, director UNL Panhandle Extension District and Panhandle Research and Extension Center

“For the beauty of the earth, for the glory of the skies, for the love which from our birth over and around us lies”

These words of a well-known hymn came to my mind this week as I watched a beautiful sunset at the conclusion of a day of pheasant hunting in the northern Panhandle with my two sons. Giving thanks for the beauty around us is an important part of the Thanksgiving holiday. I believe it is also a vital part of a healthy life, particularly when situations outside of our control may cause stress and discouragement.

The year 2019 has been tough for many in the Panhandle. Weather events have not been friendly to agriculture this year. I have been in many conversations the past months where the comment was made that we are anxious for 2019 to end so we can move on. The faith, resilience and hope of agriculture people continues to amaze and inspire me. I feel fortunate to have been around this culture all my life. The maxim “wait until next year” seems to carry forward and keep these determined people moving ahead.

The words from the hymn above were written by Folliott Sandford Pierpoint (1835-1917), a schoolmaster in southwest England. Another writer, Armin Hauessler, provided insight into the circumstances of how these words came about: “Folliott Sandford Pierpoint wrote this one day in late spring near his native city of Bath, England, when violets and primroses were in full bloom and all the earth seemed to rejoice. He climbed up a hill and sat down to rest and meditate. The panorama before him inspired him to write these beautiful lines.”

My wife and I both have 90-year-old parents who live in Northern Utah. We try to get over there as often as possible to spend time with them. Since we often make the journey via highway 71 and I-80, my wife says, “As soon as I turn off I-80 at Kimball and head north, there is such peace and beauty as I watch the sky with its looming clouds and vast rolling hills.” “For the beauty of the earth . . .” We love the Panhandle.

As I strive to lead the amazing group of people at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center, in my role as Director, I’m continually astounded by the great ideas, innovative programs and visionary approaches they take to fulfil the mission of the university in western Nebraska. I’m thankful for this privilege, not only during this Thanksgiving time, but at all times to be associated with such a wonderful community, both at the Center and across the Panhandle.

Another verse of this hymn characterizes other feelings I had as my sons and I ended the pheasant hunt:

“For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild”

Family is everything. I’m hopeful that as you celebrated Thanksgiving this week, you too were able to be with family and able to partake of the joy of human love of brother, sister, parent, child, friends on earth and friends above.

Our hunt was only marginally successful from a bagged limit standpoint, we saw lots of pheasants, but did not get many shots, and the shots I took reminded me I better spend more time with clay targets before the next hunt. However, being with my two sons, now grown men making their own way through life, made me grateful for the human love noted by Folliott Pierpoint. From this standpoint, our hunt was very successful for me, for which I am thankful.

Have a great month and wonderful holiday season enjoying the beauty all around us.

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