I spent some time over the weekend thinking of role models...
The reason why, happen to do with the deaths of two people who were very influential in my life. One was a former deacon at the church I pastored. Another was the registrar at Bishop College where I attended.
The deacon, Arthur Phillips, was a trusted man, always encouraging, an absolutely wonderful sense of humor and a delightful personality. In the car, leaving the cemetery, I mentioned to one of my former staff ministers, 'You know, I can't remember anyone ever saying anything bad about Bro. Phillips, or even saying they disliked him...' Believe me, in a relatively small membership (300-400), over two decades I can say that's a pretty significant feat!
Bro. Phillips was 87 years old. He and his wife Audrey, were married for 67 years. Together they raised nine children (one preceded them in death). They are absolutely revered by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a member of New Mount Moriah Baptist Church for 56 years and lived in South Dallas for at least that long. He also owned a farm in East Texas, but he wouldn't be described as man of means.
He was encouraging. He was supportive. He took care of his family and he helped his neighbors and his church members. In the 22 years I served him as pastor, I can't remember a time I asked him to do something that he didn't do. While neighborhood redevelopment wasn't anywhere in the church's history, he was supportive our efforts to bring housing and new business to the neighborhood. He brought his wife and many of his grown children to the meetings where the plans were made.
The registrar at the Bishop College was Dr. J.D. Hurd. Dr. Hurd was a jewel of man whose encouragement, inspiration and even confrontation with us as young men and women, as many of us just got out of high school. His encounters with us were not just with us in the line registering in school. But in all of those encounters, whether in chapel, or the student grill, he challenged and inspired us to be our best.
Dr. Hurd was at Bishop and then Paul Quinn College for 50 years! During World War II he served with the 99th Pursuit Squadron - the Tuskegee Airmen - and taught Freshman Orientation classes, Social Studies and Education at Bishop. He was a longtime member of New Hope Baptist Church, one of the oldest black churches in Dallas. Dr. Hurd died at the age of 89.
Now his my point, and I've been making it all weekend: I hear it said, particularly in the black community, that there are no more role models. But what were these men, if not role models?! And these are not figures of the distant past - they lived among us. I knew them. Collectively they were known and loved by thousands. They were not 'celebrities' but they were celebrated as men of accomplishment - modest by some standards - and men who impacted the lives of those whom they inspired and helped.
But more important, there are more men like this, younger and older, than there are rappers, professional athletes, executives in Fortune 500 companies, actors or any other 'glamorous' profession.
Aren't these men role models?!
And if they are - and they are - why aren't we telling boys and girls about men like them? For those of us who are adult men, men like Arthur Phillips or J.D. Hurd, are the men who shaped our lives. Are we telling our sons and daughters about them? Are we telling them what we admired about them and how they inspired us?
If we aren't and we are complaining that our children - no matter the gender or the color - don't have role models, then its not our children's fault. We are the ones who don't know the real definition of 'role model'.