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SPOTLIGHT
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Happiness on the homefront

Published on -2/26/2014, 10:34 AM

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During the last few months, winter had a tight grip on the Kansas countryside. Seemed like whenever I'd look outside my office window, I saw gray clouds, large flakes of snow and trees blowing in a bitterly cold wind. This made it easy to dream about the spring thaw or the warm summer sun.

Still, there was work to be done -- columns to write, photos to take, radio programs to record and meetings to attend. Stacks of files waved to me from the corner.

Deadlines and commitments. What to leave in. What to leave out.

When experiences like this occur, I clear my mind and remember what makes this profession I've chosen rewarding.

For me, happiness comes in many forms:

* Seeing any story you've written adorned with your byline. You probably won't rush home and show your spouse, mother or a good friend, but you consider it a job well done, a challenge met or another human interest story that comes to life on the printed page, Facebook or the Web.

* Knowing you are creative. You think about things that cause others to say, "I wish I had thought of that," and for thinking of good stories, coming up with catchy headlines and "well-writ" and telling sentences. On top of that, you're being paid for that talent, even if you need less than a wheelbarrow to take into the bank.

* Wordsmithing, or working well with words. Whether it's coaxing, educating, enlightening, urging or uncovering a wonderful story, you have the ability. Still, you must look for the reality beyond the deadlines. You help people adjust to change. You show them dreams can become reality. You attempt to guide them away from trouble. And, you hold them up as examples of success in this business of farming and ranching.

* Sharing the excitement when the organization you work with is recognized for excellence. You enjoy the company you keep -- the farmers and ranchers across Kansas. You admire the people you work for and write about, the folks who remain a part of this key industry called agriculture. Maybe you were once part of this vocation. Maybe you weren't. In the end, it makes no difference. By association, you are part of it.

* Understanding and valuing the weather and the four seasons. You've experienced the promising winds of spring, the blistering heat of summer, the brilliant colors of fall and the bleakness winter can bring. You know what it can do to crops and livestock. You know about the white combine. You've seen blizzards destroy a cow herd. Weather is like a wheel moving slowly while being prodded along by Mother Nature. Sure would be fun to spend more time watching her do so.

* Being recognized for your abilities. This usually includes certificates, a plaque, pin or that all-too-fleeting trip on stage and the applause that follows. The point is someone singled you out as a writer, photographer or editor. You've received an 'atta boy or 'atta girl. Accept it graciously and with gratitude.

* Finally, you are alive. You're walking upright and enjoying this big adventure called life.

By the way, just yesterday I saw some green shoots in our yard poking their little heads out of the melting snow. That's another reason for happiness.

A French writer from the early 1600s once said, "We are never so happy, nor so unhappy, as we suppose ourselves to be."

This guy's name was La Rochefoucauld.

Now that's real happiness -- remembering a name like that.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwest Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.

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