My wife is the principal at a large elementary school, which means I get the opportunity to “volunteer” a lot. The pickup (and its happy driver) hauls lots of stuff, like the inflatable bouncy tent for the Fall Festival and all the equipment the jump-rope team uses when they put on a demonstration.
Last week, however, my volunteer opportunity involved much less manual labor. I spent a morning at the school’s career day.  I was, frankly, not sure why elementary-age kids needed a career day until I visited with one of the long-time teachers there. He told me how important it is that the kids get the idea early on that there are more opportunities out there than working in a fast-food restaurant.
That’s especially important for the kids at my wife’s school, which draws from one of the more economically disadvantaged areas of town. Those kids need to know there’s a way out, and that it’s paved in part with an education. 
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I walked into the gym last Friday morning a little skeptical; I walked out refreshed and renewed. There are a lot of good kids out there who just need a chance to succeed and someone to believe in them. One young lady, after I described what I do, asked me how soon she could go to work for the magazine. I told her, with an attitude like that, it probably wouldn’t be long at all. But she might want to go to college first.
The kids were interested, asked a lot of good questions, and enjoyed touching and fooling around with the chaps, spurs and bridle I brought along as props. A discussion about those props, tools that many BEEF readers use in their daily lives, and the laptop computer sitting beside them, provided a great opportunity to talk about the beef business,  the writing business and how fulfilling it is for me to combine the two.
There’s no big moral to my tale, nor can I necessarily claim an epiphany from the experience. But I talked with a lot of kids about my work with BEEF and about the beef industry. And the kids, with their endless energy and big smiles, taught me that a little time spent with a child is one of the best investments we can make in our future.
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