My role model is the night janitor. Carson sweeps the floors, picks up trash, and cleans up spills and stains throughout the 7th grade hallway. He does an excellent job and typically offers to do more than he is expected to do.
Beyond his work, Carson cares about the people he serves, and he exhibits a consistently positive attitude. I don’t know if he truly enjoys his work, but you wouldn’t know it if he didn’t. He is consummately kind to the students and teachers in the hallway. And as a result, he is well-liked and respected by everyone who has met him. Last Christmas, he bought me a Rhonda Vincent CD because he knew how much I like Alison Krauss, and we do not have any sort of gift exchange program here. He’s just like that. He’ll leave notes on my desk randomly, always encouraging in some way. The guy serves well — with breadth and depth.
Here’s a glimpse of a card he wrote for me last week: “Thank you for allowing me to serve you these past 2+ years. I hope you will be accepting my work during this school year as well… Remember that a man’s true strength is wisdom, and you should share it freely…” Then the card concludes with a beautiful, lengthy prayer for me to be a great teacher this year. He could be the school chaplain and minister less. Amazing.
Unfortunately, guys like Carson don’t make the news. They are not heralded on stage. they don’t win awards, and they are not on the cover of a magazine. Ever. And yet, it’s not that they need fame. They are living richly without fame. It’s just a shame that more people don’t have the privilege of witnessing a humble life well-lived.
One of my old buddies from high school has become famous. He has hosted Saturday Night Live twice, is on the cover of Rolling Stone this month with three gorgeous women, and has won some Emmy Awards and Golden Globes in the last few years. I even saw him on a huge ad on the side of a bus last week. He is THE rising male star in Hollywood, best known for his portrayal of Don Draper in the hit show Mad Men. Jon Hamm is a great guy. He’s talented, intelligent, funny, good-looking, charming, and athletic. He is kind to people and is quite “down-to-earth,” by all accounts. I am happy for his success.
I just wish that guys like Carson could get as much attention. It’s one of life’s injustices. Occasionally, a humble saint comes along who garners attention, such as Mother Teresa, but it’s rare. Instead, we get less. Pick a celebrity — any of them — and I’ll take Carson as my role model instead.
So, how do I get my son to see things my way? How do I get some of my students to see through the media madness and recognize that the real role models are usually hidden around us? I have an idea, but no real solution to this dilemma.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of being the best role model I can be, and then pointing out the good qualities I see in all sorts of people around me. I can point to the good characteristics of Jon Hamm, as well as the good qualities of Carson, the night janitor. I can lead the way for the kids in my care, and pray that in the long run, they will come back to what I taught them. Maybe I can’t shine a spotlight globally, the way the media can, but I can shine a spotlight for the kids near me every day.