What someone does when no one is watching is one of the best tests of character there is. While our actions when told to do something are important, what we do when not being directed is a great indicator of how strong we feel about our responsibilities.
This is especially true for children, who sometimes overlook doing things that don’t come with an explicit reward.
That didn’t prove to be the case for a pair of elementary school boys in Middleburg, Florida, though.
Nate Helmath and Isaac Davis are a pair of 11-year-old boys attending Coppergate Elementary School in their small community about 30 minutes south of Jacksonville.
The two are a part of their school’s safety patrol, meaning they’re tasked with taking down the American Flag hanging in the courtyard each day to formally retire the colors.
They do an excellent job with their duties on a day-to-day basis, but the real test of their character—and respect for the flag—came when a rain storm hit just when they were supposed to head outside and bring the flag back into the school for the day.
For an 11-year-old kid, the end of the school day is an exciting prospect. The thought of getting to head home, often to snacks and games and maybe even some post-homework television, can make those final minutes before hopping on the bus or into a parent’s car pretty hard to bear.
The thought of having to get drenched before heading home is likely even more daunting, but that didn’t stop Helmath or Davis from going about their usual day-to-day operations.
The school managed to snap a picture of the pair, who walked calmly out to the courtyard in the middle of the storm to take down the flag. They even stood there and properly folded it 13 times, so it could be retired for the day without any issue. Then Nate “protected the flag” and sheltered it from the elements as they brought it back inside.
While the debate over respect for the flag has been raging across the United States for a while, a few things are clearly laid out in the U.S. Flag Code— and leaving the flag up during poor weather, or overnight, is considered a clear form of disrespect.
The pair of safety patrol students could have left the flag up, hoping to stay inside and dry while expecting a teacher or other authority figure to go and brave the elements. They showed true respect, though, going above and beyond what’s normally expected of a pair of young kids in order to get their jobs done correctly—regardless of the weather.
Putting all other arguments about the flag aside, both Helmath and Davis did the right thing—and were adequately praised for it. One veteran posted on Facebook that they brought tears to his eyes—and Helmath, the child of two U.S. military veterans, certainly made his parents proud with his act.
Every once in a while, kids really manage to show adults a thing or two about doing the right thing.