How do you say farewell to something you have dedicated almost 12 years to? A story.
Long ago in a far off village there lived the young son of a farmer. He had a passion for knowledge and loved to write and read poetry. His farm chores kept him in shape but he did not enjoy nor was he skilled at swordplay, horse riding, or jousting. This made him very different from the other boys, sometimes making him feel worthless.
One person in this village noticed the boy’s poetic talent and saw how it could help him and others. This man was one of the last Emerald Knights, a group of people who lived by the highest standards of honor, kindness, and community. As custom with all Knights of the Emerald Order, this knight had to take a student and teach him the ways of the order, so that the boy might take his place someday.
Soon the boy was studying and traveling with the Emerald Knight, mastering his skills as a poet and learning the art of diplomacy and leadership. Yet through his younger years he still felt alone with no friends of his own.
Seeing this the knight took the boy to the Great Convention held yearly in the MiddleLands. There the boy met others just like him, who had a special gift but did not have a community of their own. He met many new friends and saw that there were others to support him in life, no matter where they were from or where they were going.
The final night of the convention, the Leader of the Emerald Order spoke to these young men and women.
“Dark times have come to our realm,” he said. “Evil is eating the soul of our people, making them lose heart and draw away from each other. For ages our Order has tried to preserve the ideals of hard work, charity, and most of all community, but it has not been easy. It will not get easier. We have tried to cultivate the special gifts inside of you. We will not always be here, so as the next Knights you must carry on our mission: go into the realm, cultivate the gifts in others, and help better not yourself but all in the land.”
Overwhelmed by this, the young boy swore that one day he lead the Knights in their noble mission.
Over the years he excelled at passing the tests of a Knight. He continued to master his poetry and through skill in diplomacy had become a high-ranking knight in the Order. But the more he did for himself, the less he remembered those that helped get him there. Soon pride and greed had corrupted him. He neglected his friends to follow his fiery desire. He caused turmoil in the Order, and even wounded a friend in an unexpected duel.
By now he was studying the Arts and Agriculture at the College in the MiddleLands. There he met a group of monks who helped him to realize his mistakes and put him on a path to redemption. He reunited with four of his fellow Knights and together they led the Emerald Order.
The following spring this Knight went with some of the monks to a village in the Southern Kingdom. The villagers for years had been robbed by barbarians until they had nothing. A few years ago a group of monks started a rebuilding effort, and helped the community bring itself from poverty.
The Knight was sifting through the rubble of a hut when a group of children tackled him in a playful embrace. Bewildered this Knight asked a woman why the children did this.
She said, “Long ago one of your Knights helped bring us together. He told us we had two special gifts–the gift of our talent and the gift of community. He told us by using these we would bring ourselves from ruin. And that is the lesson we teach our children.”
With this the Knight took the woman in his arms and wept bitterly, for he knew what he had done wrong.
The time drew again for the Great Convention, and the Knight had assembled the students of his fellow Knights.
This is what he told him:
Through our group you have learned many lessons and cultivated your gift. You have connected to a family that will never leave you. Now you must use your talent to help others, but never forget those that got you here, and those that are here with you. Skills are not as important as community, for without community we are nothing.
I know I could not have succeeded without some very special people, and I want to thank them now. Mom, Dad, thank you for staying together, for raising me in a Christian family, and for teaching me hard work, respect, and kindness. Janeen, Patti, Sheena, and the other Pennyrile agents for always supporting me in my quest. The State Teen Council, for being a family to talk to, a family that accepts me for who I am, for keeping me focused on our work.; The officers, we were raised on this council, and we grew closer over the years. You are my brothers and I love you all. Dennis and Teresa, for being my old Knights, and teaching me the true nature of 4-H. All of you in the audience, for believing in me. And our Lord, who forgives me for my faults and helps me to be a better servant.
As 4-Hers you have learned, now use what you have learned to teach others and bring them together. Go into your community, your country, and your world, find those who are lonely and searching, help them find who they are, and bring them together. Thank you for letting me be a part of this, and I wish you the best as you travel your own paths.
-Final address of Michael Odell Walker, President, Ky. 4-H, 1996-97, 1997 4-H Senior Conference, Lexington, KY. firstname.lastname@example.org
-Used with permission.