I’ve had many heroes in my life. My brother has always been a hero. I wanted to be like him. I played football because he did. I chose to the same college he did and went into education just as he had. Later in life, I understood that my dad was a hero. I grew into that realization gradually. I came to understand that he influenced me in more ways than I can imagine and one of my biggest heartaches is that I never got to tell him.
It wasn’t so much in what my dad said to me or did with me. To be honest, I can’t remember if he and I had any lengthy conversations about life, the future, or any of the ‘great’ questions. He was a quiet guy who loved to laugh. Boy, did he work hard! Ten mouths to feed, to clothe and to put through school. I never, ever heard him complain. He accepted his life, loved us and went about living.
I coached a basketball player by the name of Dale. He was, by any measure, a very good player. He led the conference in scoring and rebounding and ended up with a full ride at a Midwestern university. He was named Captain as a sophomore, unheard of in that era and the first underclassman given that honor in that school’s history. My varsity and my coaches and I would sit in the stands and watch the junior varsity team play, and I remember one game where Dale came up to me and asked if he could speak to me. He apologized for his “poor play” the game previous. As I recall, it wasn’t necessarily a “Dale kind of game”, but still, double-digits in scoring and rebounding and we won. He said there was a little kid who had come up to him and asked him for his autograph. Dale felt uncomfortable, but gave it to him and then the kid said, “I want to be just like you when I grow up!” Dale was taken aback by that. He said, “I didn’t know kids watched me that closely.” He didn’t think he was a “good enough role model for them.” Pretty deep for a senior in high school.
I remember Charles Barkley stating that he “wasn’t a role model.” Unfortunately, anytime we step out in front of someone, we risk accepting that title. Teachers in front of their students. Coaches in front of their players. Parents in front of their children. Whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, each of us has the potential to be a role model, and a hero, to someone. Perhaps we need to be more closely aware of our actions, our words, and in some cases, our inactions and our lack of words. We never know who is watching and we never know who might see us as a role model or a hero.
Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!