Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
I had an opportunity to go back to school this week, not as a student but as the teacher. I forgot what it was like to walk into a strange school for the first time and have no idea where I was going and not know a single person. It was déjà vu of school for me except I wasn’t the short freckle faced kid; I was the old guy with a goatee and the furniture seemed a bit smaller than I remember.
I was asked by a friend if I would like to talk to a middle school group of students that get together every week for a club they call Solid Rock. They came to hear me speak about being a Christian, a photographer and as someone who is concerned about environmental issues and how they all tie together for me. I’ll admit, even though the audience was young and likely had little to no expectations, I was still nervous. As the father of three, including a middle school boy, I should be able to relate but I spent most of the week before struggling to prepare and wondering what my message should be.
I came to the conclusion that I would just share how I arrived at the point in my life when I decided I wanted to campaign for environmental issues. I don’t think of myself as an environmentalist. I think of it as a natural fit as a Christian and how I want to be a good steward of what God created for us. It is as old as Genesis. It has also become personal as the father of an asthmatic. I have watched many days and nights as she has struggled not being able to breathe, sometimes even requiring emergency room care.
As it turns out they were all great kids and I was the one who learned something that day. They were so full of ideas and enthusiastic about the opportunity they had to make a difference. They talked as a group about cleaning up garbage around their school, doing more recycling, and other changes they could make in their school and neighborhood. They accomplished more in 45 minutes as 11-13 year olds than some meetings I have been in with adults for several hours. We all need to be more child-like and just do something.
I read an article recently by Tony Dungy titled “Where Have All the Role Models Gone” in which he shares some insights into the lives of pro athletes and how our youth look up to them only to be let down quite often. I’ve been there many times myself as a fan of sports. I don’t usually think of myself as a role model but that day in the classroom the kids seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. The defining moment for me was when a young girl named Shannon came to me after the presentation and asked me for my autograph. I obliged and initially laughed it off with a bit of silly humor but after leaving and replaying the day in my head my feelings towards the conversation with Shannon changed. It made me realize the influence we have as adults on our youth with the words we speak and the way we act. It was at this moment I realized we as adults are all role models whether or not we want to. We just need to decide what kind of a role model we are going to be.