Who did you look up to when you were growing up? Were your heroes the popular athletes or musicians of the day? What kind of role models did they end up being for you? What about in your early adult years? Did you even have role models or were you too old for that?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role models I’ve had in my life. My parents and teachers were the role models of my youth. They are still role model-worthy but I’ve broadened my mind to look up to and learn from others for particular reasons.
Dictionary.com defines a role model as:
“a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.”
Notice that the definition does not address the type of success or behavior of the person. Most adults think of a role model (or a mentor) as someone with financial success. However, success can come in many different forms, as you’ll see by my choices of role models.
My role models were not selected on purpose. I wasn’t looking for them. Two of the three role models found their way into my life and one is a family member. I look up to these three people because of unique behaviors of each. One represents how I want to deal with financial success. One demonstrates how to treat other people, especially a spouse. The third portrayed a life dedicated to God.
My uncle and his brother grew their family real estate investment business to a point they are no longer “active” in the day-to-day running of the business. The company’s assets and equity are substantial and provide a very nice life for my uncle, his brother and their families.
I don’t look up to my uncle because of his wealth. I look up to him for two other reasons, albeit related to his wealth. First, he (and my aunt) do not act rich. They are the most down-to-earth people I could ever dream of meeting. I love talking with them because how normal they are.
Some wealthy people put off an air of supremacy and make it difficult to approach them. Even though they are my relatives, they will talk to anyone. They love meeting people and making friends. They are courteous and fun. They are loving and helpful. They are truly great people.
The second reason I look up to my aunt and uncle is because of their generosity. They believe their wealth is to be used to benefit others but they do not want any notoriety from their generosity. I know of only a few things to which they have been big contributors but I know they are always willing to help others. It’s refreshing to see people with wealth who do not feel entitled by it. They are great role models.
I knew Mitch from very early in my life. He always took an interest in me and made sure to always ask me how and what I was doing? He became my spiritual role model. Mitch was a public elementary school principal and an elder in my local church congregation.
Two times in my life I needed a written character reference and he was gracious enough both times to accept my request to write them. I don’t know what he wrote either time but they must have been good because I was accepted for both roles. Because of the way he treated me growing up, I knew he would do a great job and be very honest with what he wrote.
Unfortunately, Mitch passed away from cancer several years ago. In fact, he lived with cancer for many years and fought to survive long past when the doctors said he should. I never asked him but I can only imagine he fought that cancer how he did so he could teach the gospel of Christ to as many people as possible.
Years before his death, but still while having cancer, he began our congregation’s prison ministry. He would go to the prison every Sunday afternoon to teach and minister to the inmates there. Even though he was often hurting and tired, he walked his way into the prison rather than accepting assistance. I assume this was so he would not receive pity but be seen as a source of strength to those he was teaching.
Mitch was the smartest man I’ve ever known. There was little, if any, of the Bible he did not know. He could quote scripture endlessly. He tought Bible classes weekly, sometimes on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. When he retired from the school district, he gained additional time to study for these classes. However, he did that well before his retirement and still while battling cancer.
He loved his God and his family. Mitch was a great role model as a father of two girls, the husband of a wonderful woman and as a spiritual leader. To this day, I’m still motivated to study and/or teach each time I think of him. Mitch earned my respect because of his spiritual commitment. I hope someone looks at me in that way one day.
Joe and Betty were married almost sixty years. During that time, they rarely left each other’s side. I don’t remember the exact details as both Joe and Betty told them, but they met while Joe was in military service. They married soon after their first meeting. They knew it was love at first sight.
That love never waned. When talking with them, my wife and I could see the love they shared. They still looked at each other the way Denise and I looked at each other only a couple of years into our marriage. They often talked about their first meeting, their marriage and life together. Those stories never got old.
We met Joe and Betty at church. Their son and his wife placed membership at our congregation and they soon brought Joe and Betty to visit for worship services. It wasn’t long until they both converted and followed God’s plan for their salvations.
From our first encounter with Joe and Betty, Denise and I felt like they had adopted us as their grandchildren. They took us in (and we fully accepted their loving nature) and became very dear friends of ours. Unfortunately, both Joe and Betty have passed from this life.
Those of us who knew Joe and Mitch well, often joke about how they are likely sitting next to each other talking about their time here and being actively involved in watching us. Mitch and Joe created a bond during their short time together on Earth. I have to believe that bond has continued.
Joe was the type of man I wanted to be as it relates to how I treat others, especially my wife and children. When I am old, I want to have that puppy-love look for my wife as he did for Betty. I want to praise all aspects of my wife like he did for Betty. He was the ultimate example of how to be a husband and I hope I can be that one day as well.
These role models are very dear to me. In fact, my wife and I planned on honoring both Mitch and Joe if we had a son. Before Cara or Leeann were born, we hoped one would be a boy so we could call him Mitchell Joseph. We looked forward to teaching him about his namesakes. Of course, I wouldn’t change having my girls and I still honor Mitch and Joe by thinking of them often.
Even though two of my role models have passed from this life, their legacies and memories live on. I think of them daily and they continue to change my life. I hope I have as much of a positive impact on others by the time my life ends.
What will your legacy be? Do you live your life so you can be a role model for others?
If you remember the role models of your youth or still have some today, forward this to them and tell them how much they mean to you. Do it before it’s too late. You can also express those sentiments to the world by leaving a comment below.