It started innocently enough; I didn’t have a clue of what I was wishing for. But I wanted it like I wanted no other thing. I wanted the most coveted prize. The saying, “Be careful of what you wish for,” never entered my mind. Maybe it should have as it set me on a course I never would have expected.
We were at a 4-H awards ceremony; my name had been called many times for various awards: Gold Star, 9 year pin, cooking completion, sewing completion, record book silver bowl, and more. I missed the trips, but I got those the previous year. There was only one award left; the most coveted, the Danforth Award. Being eighteen, I knew that this was my only chance to earn the award, as the next year I would have to be a leader if I want to stay with the 4-H community.
The award was given to the most active, well rounded senior members. Since I was nine years old, I worked hard every year toward this sought-after prize. Whenever there was a need for a volunteer, I signed up; if there was a new meeting needing attendance, they could count on me. You name it I did it.
The introduction for the award seemed decades long, I just wanted to hear the names. Only two girls and two boys could win this valued prize. People began drumming their fingers on the table; I came out of my trance. I knew they were about to announce the winners – CC, we all clapped. I was thrilled for her; we’d done so much together. DI, a cheer broke out for him; he deserved it. My stomach was in knots, and I chewed a whole in my cheek; only two awards left. Laurel, that’s me, they called my name! I looked around as if I had to make sure they called my name. I rose to my feet and raced up to the podium. The presenter hands me a small brown leather book. It was the award I wanted most.
I had no idea what this book was about, but I knew it had to be good because it was more prized than all the silver bowls and other awards handed out through the years. I clutched it tightly in my hands and looked down to read the title. Surprise filled me, it said, I DARE You, not Danforth. That seems odd for a prized book, but the dare grabbed me, and I knew that it would be read within days.
Like an echo in my mind, I heard DR’s name being called. I came back to reality and cheered along with everyone else. We had all been county ambassadors together the year before, and this was a great way to end our time as members together. We had all been so deeply involved in 4-H throughout our youth; though, we knew it wasn’t going to be the end for us. Eventually, we would become leaders.
In keeping with the dare, I read the book within a week. I came to understand why the award was called Danforth. William Danforth was a successful man who made it in life on a dare. As a poor sick child, he was dared by a teacher to be the healthiest boy in class; when he met this challenge, he was given another. Every time he met a challenge, he found another until he was a very successful businessman. He then turned to daring other young men who needed a boost to be great at something they weren’t. This book was his book written about the dares and all the while challenging the reader to find a personal one, to make every day worth while and the best.
Now, I understand the award and even that we got this award to encourage us to reach for our dreams, one challenge at a time. But why wait until we have already accomplished so much? After reading the book and using it my life, I realize that the officials waited to see who the members to push themselves through repeated challenges were.
This book has affected my life through the effort of earning it as well as the continuing dare it provokes in me just sitting on my shelf. When I forget my way, I just open a page, read it, and I’m on my way again. With book in hand, I step into the next dare of my life, the dare to become as healthy as I can be.