Now that we have returned to work after the late summer Bank Holiday here in the U.K. and the schools, colleges and universities will be gearing up for the new educational year, I was wondering how much importance is given these days to the idea of providing young people with positive role models.
I started off thinking about role models from the world of sport. I wonder who comes to mind for you? I’m a bit of a Spurs fan, and I think Harry Kane, the Tottenham striker, would be a great role model for young people because he doesn’t just do it for the money (he could earn a lot more with a different club) and I have never seen any scandalous stories about him. I would be hard pressed to find another current Premier League footballer that fits the bill. I wonder if you know of anyone?
One of my favourite sports is tennis, and I would cite Roger Federer as a great example of the way to be as a champion sports person. In the women’s game, I always saw Steffi Graf as a great role model, someone with style, grace and impeccable behaviour.
Then my mind turned to role models from the world of politics. I wonder how many of you watch or listen to ‘Prime Minister’s Questions’ when the British Parliament is in session. Perhaps you have something similar in your country. What do you think of the behaviour in general of people in public life? Would you want your children and students to behave in the way that many Members of Parliament behave in their workplace?
In the end, we only have control over our own behaviour, but how many of us are, knowingly or unknowingly, an influence on others? I take my relationships with young people in my life very seriously. I have a responsibility to help them to become the best that they can be, while remaining their own person. A few years ago, my young niece asked me the golden question
‘Uncle Graham, what do you think about God?’
I thought very carefully for a few moments. I was honest with her. I told her that I had believed in God at one point in my life, because I was brought up to do so. Then I had rebelled, at the age of 17, and decided that I was an atheist. Nowadays I am not so sure. I don’t think there’s a God, but there could be.
‘What should I do, then, Uncle Graham?’ came the next question.
‘I think you should go and talk to some Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and any other religion that you can find out there. Then make up your own mind, and be prepared to change it as you go through life. And remember, whatever you decide, I will still love you’.
I see my role in life as helping people to be themselves, and to be comfortable with that changing person as they go through their lives. I have become more comfortable with who I am as I have grown older, and I can only suggest that might be the way to go.