While I was home for the fair last weekend, I learned a valuable life lesson from a ten-year-old boy. I think we can all learn a little something from him, his cousin, and some sheep.
In rural communities, its common to have a fair where children can take their 4-H projects in order to show them and sell them at auction. My 9 and 10 year old cousins, Zach and Hudson, both had lambs that they worked with and prepared to show for their first year in 4-H.
Show day had arrived and first up was showmanship. For those non-country folks, this is the category in which the judge pays special attention to the human being and how they handle, control, and display their sheep. Being their first year and being young, they weren’t exactly awesome. I know they were disappointed, especially Zach. But they both regrouped and headed back into the show ring when it was time to actually show off their animals.
Again, for the non-countrified, animals are judged by their body types, i.e. if they are fat and lean in the right places. It really is like a primitive beauty pageant at its basest form except instead of ogling the contestants for their sex appeal, we’re all thinking about how tasty they will be on the dining room table.
At one point during this round, another little boy’s sheep got away from him and the judge, some 4-H advisors, and other local farmers attempted to corral him. They were having some difficulty because perhaps Bubbles the Sheep realized that in just a few days he would be back in this same show ring, only this time being auctioned off to the highest bidder who would devour him as a lamb chop. You can’t blame him for wanting to run away.
But Zach, who is a solid kid and is playing football, made a great defensive play and tackled Bubbles much to the delight of the crowd.
The judge took his time looking over the sheep, trying to decide which one had the best physique. He finally lined everyone up in the order he wanted them and a gasp went out from the crowd and then a hoot and a holler as Zach’s sheep, Zap (I think was his name), came in first in the class.
But I wasn’t watching Zach or Zap. I was drawn to the big beaming smile on Hudson’s face. He came in third, which wouldn’t qualify him to return for Grand and Reserve Champion rounds (1st and 2nd overall in the entire sheep show, not just the class). He had lost. But as you can see from the photo below that Hudson wasn’t thinking about losing. He looked happy. Proud. Excited for his cousin.
Others began to see it, too. And when Zach went back and won Reserve Champion. Hudson hooted and hollered louder than anyone. ”Way to go, Zach!” he exclaimed. What a moment.
See, life isn’t always fair even at THE fair. Hudson likely worked as hard – if not harder – on his sheep project than Zach did. He could have been disappointed; no one would have thought twice about it if he had looked sad or frustrated. That would have been normal, especially for a little boy.
But instead he taught me and many other adults sitting in the stands a valuable life lesson:
Life is how you choose to look at it.
I’ve told this story and shown this photo to every client I saw this week, whether it was a relevant lesson to their immediate crisis or not because it is a life lesson that everyone needs to learn and to live. Hudson, a ten year old boy, made a choice (without even thinking) to be happy for someone else’s victory despite his loss. Is this because his dad, a loving father and excellent coach, has instilled the essence of sportsmanship in his children? Probably. Is it because his mom, by all accounts one of the hardest working and best teachers in the district, has a love for people, especially children? Probably. Is it because he shares the same genes as me? Doubtful. Yet there it was, clear as day, in living color – the lesson I spend my entire day teaching people.
Atticus Finch told his daughter, Scout, in the remarkable book To Kill A Mockingbird that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
A lot of us are really good at stepping into someone’s skin when they are hurting and feeling that pain with them. Its crucial to learn this or you cannot be an effective healer, in my not very humble opinion.
But to go to the advanced empathy level and figure out that you can also step inside someone’s skin and experience joy with them even when you may have lost to them … well, I just find that remarkable. It is humbling that I had to be reminded by a ten year old young man.
Today and the rest of this week, I am going to be intentional about experiencing joy in someone else’s victory. Will you join me in this mission? What kind of world would we live in if we stopped being so angry, hurt, frustrated, and dare I say selfish and started to choose joy? I get choked up just thinking about it.