Here in the office, my co-workers and I participated in a fall health challenge for the first few weeks of October. The idea was to consciously make choices that would create healthy habits lasting far longer than the challenge – getting enough hours of sleep at night, eating so many servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and keeping active were among the requirements.
    At the end of the challenge, there was a drawing to receive a bonus on our next paycheck. Granted, my participation began with the want for a little spending money, but part of the challenge tugged at my perspective on life more than I had originally thought it would.
    With each day, we were encouraged to share a positive message with our co-workers – taking those kind words and intentions and making the most out of every day. Bible verses, movie quotes and the wise words from philosophers spammed my email.
    While those words remained in the office, I subconsciously began noticing the positivity that surrounds me in the rural community I’m fortunate enough to call home.
    Willie and I purchased a house west of Sauk Centre, Minn., last February. As we’ve settled into the daunting responsibilities as homeowners, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support and kindness our neighbors have displayed.
    As boxes were still piled high in our living room and our fridge was looking sparse, with only a few takeout boxes remaining, our newest neighbors came and introduced themselves, carrying a basket of warm dinner, sweet treats and a delicate friendship plate that I’m anxiously waiting to pass along to another new homeowner.
    Throughout the year, this couple has offered their groceries when I run out of sugar and I’m half way through a recipe, they delivered fresh strawberries when they were passing by and they’ve always been the kindest souls.  
    Another couple has helped us landscape the yard – clearing trees, moving cattle housing and lending equipment that we have yet to purchase. They’ve served as mentors to Willie and I – offering advice, personally and professionally, to better ourselves.
    Most importantly, this couple has watched over our growing hobby farm while we’ve traveled. To some, it’s trivial work to feed three head of cattle and a small flock of chickens, but those chores take time and they have to get done. Plus, our rambunctious border collie is still learning how to herd, which makes feeding that much more difficult.
    Over the last nine months, we have encountered more people than I could have ever imagined when we first moved. And instances like the ones mentioned above are more common than they are not. These people have become good neighbors and good friends.
    Whether it’s stopping to help someone finish putting up hay before the rain arrives, waking up a few hours early to milk cows before heading off to work, or riding along in the combine for late-night company, Willie and I have enjoyed getting to know our little, rural community.
    It’s not just us that have received compassion because we’re new to the area – country folk are genuinely hard working, selfless people.
    While harvest is well underway, it’s been a wearing one. Rain has coated the fields for what seems like most of the growing season and the cool temperatures haven’t helped. In a race against Mother Nature, farmers across the countryside are working to get the fields cleared, and doing so without getting stuck or leaving much of the yields behind.
    But the farming community, as always, is showing resilience. When one field is complete, another one opens up. And when one farmer is complete with harvest, they aid their neighbor in doing the same.
    Without giving it much thought, these actions are natural to the farming community – of course we would help each other with any means available.
    In light of my work challenge, I’ve had the humbling opportunity to reflect on all the positivity that surrounds me – within my neighborhood, throughout my office space and in every encounter I have with the dairy community. Frankly, the challenge gave greater value to my life and those who are a part of it.
    In a world weighed down with negatives, how are you making a positive influence in someone else’s life?