The important thing in life isn’t that you know everything, or have everything, or can do everything; it’s that you know your limitations, are honest about them, and work accordingly. As a single parent raising two young children, Mom was always on the lookout for good role models. If she thought someone, usually from church, was a good father, or husband, a good worker, wife, mother, or an integral part of an overall great family, she would either foster a relationship with them or point them out as models to us. Most important of all was their relationship with the Lord. She cared that we had models of loving, faithful, Christians in our lives. They were not carbon copies of each other – there was no perfect mold, but she hoped their influence would help us to grow to be loving, faithful, hardworking, honorable Christians ourselves.
So in my life, I have snapshots of families, men, and women who had some attribute that Mom admired, which inform my way of thinking about things. They are so embedded, so intertwined, that they have become inextricable from my vision of the world and how it should be. Thinking back on it, Mom didn’t just provide real-life models, every book I read – she read first so that my literary models were also good ones. Now, that is not to say that I didn’t read about the most dastardly of characters – I did, but that they were clearly portrayed as “the bad guys” and that honorable characters were clearly “good.”
I think about it now because there have been times in my life when I thought about a person and was compelled to tell them how much they meant to me. But, because of shyness or insecurity, I didn’t. Sometimes the person was someone I only knew in passing, but who had served as a model from a distance. Other times, what their example meant to me was out of proportion with our relationship. I don’t get close to people very easily, but that doesn’t mean I don’t watch. Not in a creepy stalkerish way – just a “wow, I like that something and I’d like to emulate that in my own life” kind of way.
There was the family with a heart for the Lord who quietly set about helping people, who ministered to any and everyone, who baked me cookies and paid me to do work they could have done themselves when I was a lonely child. There was the family who traded math tutoring for violin lessons and taught me that the time to get help is when you need it. There was the older couple who had dessert with us after Sunday evening service and shared their life stories. There was the family who went to seminary to find good Christian spouses and raised a new generation of kids that ministered to mine as well. There was the pastor who admonished his congregation to “never join a ‘perfect’ church because we’d ruin it – since no one was perfect.” Or the the pastor’s family that cared for me and my baby boy when I had no one else to help. There was the storyteller who made french toast for the hungry while plying me with wondrous tales, the grandmother to everyone who never lost her faith despite the her troubles in the world. There was the tall thin West Indian bible teacher who’s class I loved to sit in. There was the family who opened their home to me when my mother was out of the country and taught me how to make Ropa Viejo and the Pianist who sat and talked with me on my first day at a new church until I wasn’t afraid to go to Sunday School. There were so many more.
I haven’t forgotten the models, and, like my own mom, I am happy when I find ones for my own children. I feel blessed that they have had the Sunday school teacher who coached them for confirmation on his own time, the Children’s program teacher who taught them crafts and bible and who my mother loved, the youth group counselors that listened to them, prayed for them, and cared for them.
People learn by example and I am infinitely blessed and eternally grateful to have had so many.
Matthew 7:16 By their fruits they are known…