Six-year-old Paul Brown sat atop his sorrel horse “Grumpy” awaiting his turn in the ring at the Virginia State Fair with his rodeo
friends. This first grader had outgrown mutton busting and graduated to barrel and pole racing. Now he just needed the patience to await his turn. Boots in stirrups, his blonde hair partially covered by his helmet, Paul was all cowboy. But when his little maverick friends turned their horses away to take a gander, Paul followed. Suddenly Paul’s dad suddenly started running to where Paul left their other horse Skeeter tied to the fencing ring. Apparently, without the companionship of Paul or Grumpy, Skeeter could bring down the fence. Literally. Would his dad reach the end of the ring in time? I looked to Paul’s mom who suddenly smiled. “He knew.” Her eyes glistened with pride. “He knew the right thing to do.” I turned and noted little Paul, the toe-headed Australian, back in place, realizing his unspoken responsibility, instinctively knowing the right thing to do. That weekend all three Brown boys were praised and awarded for achievements inside the ring. But it made me think: How many times do we praise others for what happens outside the ring or arena, off the stage or field. The moments that are almost invisible? Aren’t mature and responsible choices even more deserving of acknowledgement? That day Paul’s mom was prouder of what he did outside the ring than inside. Without being told, without knowing he was being watched, Paul made a wise decision. He knew the right thing to do and that went far beyond blue ribbons or trophies.