How can I tell you about this incident without letting you know my grandson is the main character in the story. Or is he?
At the age of seventeen, he entertained an interest in bull riding, Yes, I said bull riding. His grandfather and I had taken him to several rodeos starting when he was around the age of ten. His main interest was always the bull pens. If he could find a place to stand near the area where the riders began their ride, he was visible to us from our place in the grandstands. We didn’t have to wonder if he was okay, he was always closely watching the riders, standing on the walkway behind the chutes.
We shouldn’t have been surprised at this fairly unusual pursuit. Beginning in junior high school, he maintained an interest in wrestling, weight lifting and football. Though he was slight of build, nothing stopped him from attempting to become successful at the projects he decided to pursue. With personal determination and a plan for accomplishing the goals he sat for himself, the attempted involvements were successful.
Although we planned to be at every bull riding event in which he participated, there was one in the northern part of our state which we were unable to attend.
Sometime after the event, perhaps months, a letter arrived for our grandson from the sheriff in a northern Michigan community. In the letter, the sheriff was asking our grandson to consider sending an autographed picture of himself. In explanation, he wrote that he was counseling an eleven year old girl who was having difficulty, as he explained it, in finding a good path to follow in her life.
The sheriff went on to write that during his counseling he had asked the girl if she had any heroes. She said yes. The girl then indicated our grandson, who she had seen riding in the rodeo in the northern part of our state, was her hero.
Think about it. The young girl must have indicated our grandson by name or there would have been no way for the sheriff to make this personal contact. Bull riding events are well attended and the grandstands are usually filled to capacity. There was no personal contact between the girl and our grandson.
This scenario amazed me. Being the grandmother I am, I didn’t miss an opportunity to offer a lecture on good behavior. “What do you suppose you were doing when she saw you?”, I asked. “You had no idea you were being watched other than when you were actually riding. Were you chatting with other riders, were you watching the activities?”
At bull riding events, my grandson wore a clean white shirt, pressed by him with a crease in the sleeves. (Only a Grandmother notices things like that, or so I thought.) He didn’t smoke, or drink or chew. Any of those things would be visible to someone watching him at an event.
This time, a confused young girl was watching him and later counting him as her hero. He found a photo of himself, as the sheriff had asked, and penned a message on the back. In the message he indicated hope that she would find good paths for her life in the future.
Since this incident happened, it was a long time ago, I’ve had many opportunities to think about people who may be watching you and me right now. What are they seeing? What are they hearing?
It would be unusual to be aware someone is observing your actions. We may never know when it’s happening. Have we influenced someone’s life? Did we make them wish they could be like us? Or, did they wish they would never be like us? Were we an influence for good? Do we present a pleasant space around ourselves?
Perhaps, in an off moment, we may convince someone never to act as we do. It’s possible something we’ve done, or said, or the way we have planned our lives, has influenced someone to change direction, or maybe to continue in a direction they’ve already chosen.
Someone is watching and listening to you and me right now. We will never know who it is or how our lives may have influenced them to direct their own life.
I’ve shared this story with many people over the past years. The incident has made a difference in how I see myself, Sometimes I hope no one is looking or hearing; other times I hope I made it through alright.
Who’s watching now?
Photos By Mary Anne Whitchurch Tuck