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Be a Goat

The Kentucky Derby is, of course, the most famous horse race in the world. Attendees don elegant hats and bowties for the occasion. Even among those who otherwise wouldn’t pay any attention to horse racing it’s a coveted experience.

What you may not know is that the racing horses can be a bit nervous. They’re intelligent animals and they can sense when the stakes are high.

Enter the goats.

Churchill Downs not only houses horses – it houses goats.

When a racehorse is showing signs of distress, the caretakers will place a goat in the pen. The goats have nothing riding on the day and so their non-anxious presence calms the horses.

Churchill Downs has one particular goat – Roxanne – who seems to have a knack for finding the most anxious horses. She’ll join them in their pen and simply be there. She doesn’t do much but sit. But inevitably her steadying presence proves calming on the horses.

I found this absolutely fascinating.

It made me think about my presence.

Am I calming? Does my presence in relationship serve to alleviate anxieties or does it exasperate them?

I don’t often have the right words. I can’t often “fix” it.

But I can be there. I can listen. I can be still.

There’s a time to push, of course. There’s a time to challenge. There’s a time to confront.

There’s also a time to just be silent. There’s a time to listen. There’s a time where the best you can say is, “I’m so sorry” – and nothing more. There’s a time to suppress your opinions.

That’s hard for a lot of us.

But if a goat can do it, how much more are we called to do it?

I’ve tried to “fix” a lot of problems when all that was needed was compassion. I’ve tried to be an adviser when all that was needed was a friend.

Odds are, you’ve done the same. You spoke when there should have been silence. You’ve given an opinion when there should have been an “I’m so sorry – that is so hard.”

Here’s how I want to challenge you – and myself.

Be a Churchill Downs goat.

Before you speak, before you challenge, before you offer advice, just be there. All of that other stuff is easy. It’s our natural tendency. Listening – trying to understand – is hard.

But do the hard.

You wouldn’t want others to speak into your situation if you didn’t trust that they were listening to you, trying to understand you, and seeking to love you, right?


Neither do they.

Start by being there.

Be a friend first.

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