I talk a lot with constituents in our district about “Northwest Illinois Values.” Often, when I use this term, I get questions.
In society these days, whenever anyone tries to say that there are “shared values”, the very concept is often met with skepticism. While it’s certainly true that there are “values” that are not as widely shared by everyone else in our region, I contest that there are some “shared values” that we can almost ALL agree on. I believe that we should talk more about those values, not less, and that communicating about our values leads us to a better society while working towards a better quality of life for all of those that call Northwest Illinois home.
What are some of the “Northwest Illinois Values” that I believe are widely shared? Living within one’s means. An honest day’s pay for a hard day’s work. Hard work and determination breed success. Leave a place better than you found it. Take care of your neighbors. Transparency and accountability in matters of public business. These are values I see shared throughout our region and beyond.
I recently spent time visiting with some very inspirational kids and young adults who reaffirmed that these values are as strong as ever here in Northwest Illinois and are still being passed from one generation to the next. The Junior Livestock Auction at the Stephenson County Fair was a great opportunity to see these values in action. With parental guidance and supervision, young adults and kids of all ages, work hard throughout the year to raise and show livestock for the opportunity to showcase their skills and product to ultimately be judged against their peers’.
The societal narrative is that young people cannot handle criticism— withering snowflakes who melt under the heat of pressure or critique. Well, somebody forgot to tell that to this group of “go getters” at the Junior Livestock Auction who are almost certain to be productive members of society. They have learned about costs of care, keeping themselves and their animals healthy, are being guided by their families learning many life lessons along the way— all to finally put a product on display for judgment in the free and open market.
Extreme joy stands alongside keen disappointment for these young people. They learn life lessons from both the joy and the disappointment. They know first-hand where their food comes from and had their hand in raising and rearing it. In a politically correct society that avoids qualitative judgment on about anything, these young people hear some harsh truths accompanied with well-deserved praise about the quality of their work. They learn to win with humility and lose with grace and dignity. Knowing all the while, the work continues for that next opportunity to be judged yet again, lessons well-learned and determination strengthened.
When I talk about our “Northwest Illinois Values,” I think of these young people and the heart they put into their work and the calluses that work puts on their hands. These values transfer for generations, all because moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles, neighbors and friends take time to work with these young people— recognizing that knowledge itself is not as important as the life lessons that accompany their determined efforts.
“Northwest Illinois Values” are not excluding nor exclusive. Sometimes you just know them when you see them. A County Fair is about so much more than concerts and carnival rides and I, for one, take strong note of the “Northwest Illinois Values” I saw on full display at the Junior Livestock Auction. Thank you to the kids and young adults for giving us hope.