Missing a friend and a great teacher

Growing up as a teachers’ kid, you quickly learn what makes a good teacher. A good teacher encourages you to think, challenges your beliefs and opinions¬†and helps you gain more knowledge than you ever thought possible.

Chris Raines was a good teacher.

Dr. Chris Raines, 1981-2011

Now, I never sat in Chris’s classroom, but I know this is true. See, like so many others, I met Chris online through his Twitter “handle”¬† @iTweetMeat. From the get-go, I knew this guy was smart and witty. On so many occasions, he challenged my comments when he could have so easily passed them by. One of the first interactions I remember was when I made a comment about how farmers shoudn’t be held responsible for people who get sick from raw milk, because they knew that danger was there. Chris automatically came back at me, asking if that meant meat processors shouldn’t be held responsible for food poisoning because people should just cook it all the way? It was instances like this where he forced me to re-examine my beliefs, look at them from another angle, and learn something along the way. That’s why I know Chris was a good teacher in his “real life” job as a meat science professor at Penn State. I think he did things like that with his students every day.

Last night, Chris lost his life in a car accident and the online community of “AgChatters” and “Agvocates” lost a great friend. It’s amazing how close of a relationship you can form with someone in the digital space. I’ve spent my day randomly bursting into tears, despite the fact that my actual, in-person interactions with Chris were few. That doesn’t matter, though, because I will always remember his ability to teach us all, while making us smile at the same time. He will be sorely missed.

The goodness that can come from sadness

I don’t really know how to approach this blog, but I knew I wanted to write a post about it. With that said, forgive me if I ramble.

Last night, I had the chance to participate in the first-ever Ella’s Halo Helping Hour. Hosted at my office, around 20 volunteers gathered to fill 500 drawstring bags with things like cameras, water bottles, toiletries, pens and notepads. These bags will eventually be donated to the NICU at one of the hospitals in Minneapolis for parents of preemies having to make unexpected hospital stays.

While Ella’s Halo, the nonprofit hosting the event, is a worthy cause in anybody’s book, it was made even more special for me because it was founded by my co-worker and his wife, after they lost their daughter Ella in 2009.

I don’t know what it’s like to have or lose a child. However, I can’t help but have the utmost respect and admiration for Ryan and Taryn. They took a situation that will forever conjure dual memories of sadness and joy, and they turned it into something that can help others unexpectedly put in similar situations.

I’m looking forward to being able to help with other Ella’s Halo activities in the future and hope you’ll take a moment to visit the Ella’s Halo website. No donation is necessary, but please read Ella’s story. I hope it inspires us all to build up the strength and courage it takes to brave life’s dark situations and turn in them into light.