“Wanted role models,” read the signboard. The first applicant was a lion and its resume had a caption, “They say, ‘As majestic as a lion’. I can be seen as a role model for the way I carry myself.” The second applicant was a peacock and its resume had a title, “They say, ‘As beautiful as a peacock’. I can be seen as a role model for my natural beauty.”
As free as an eagle; as fast as a cheetah; as faithful as a dog; as colourful as a butterfly; as hard working as a bull; the memory of an elephant; the concentration of a snake… With such remarkable traits they have become synonymous with, there stood so many applicants, each one of them gazing at the sign board, “Wanted role models.”
The jackal, which was hiding its resume from everyone else, for it had printed on it, “As cunning as a jackal,” looked around and asked, “Where are the humans?” The ant whose resume read, “The teamwork of ants; after all, nobody makes it alone,” replied, “Oh, they are busy modelling. They are happy just being models. So the poets have turned to us for role models.”
Everyone is concerned about the economic slowdown, food shortage, lack of civic amenities like toilets, the water table going down, the pollution hazards, the depleting ozone layer, global warming, deforestation… but do we realise that all the suffering in the world stems from scarcity and poverty of role models?
How long are we going to show our children the history books?
When can we begin to show them living role models?
When are we going to have a world where children do not have to look beyond their parents for role models?
How long are we going to pacify ourselves by saying, “But for his smoking and drinking habits he is a great man?”
How long are we going to appease ourselves by saying, “Let us not look at the character of our teacher; that’s a matter of his personal life; let us just take his teachings and go?” Why should there be just one Gandhi to tell us, “My life is my message!” Why not enough of us ‘Walk the Talk’? How about a world, where in a Guru the world sees that the message is the messenger himself!
How about a world where my CEO is all that I need as a philosopher and guide? How long can we compromise by saying, “But for his weakness for women, he is a wonderful person to work with?”
In the absence of real life character role models, children helplessly take a cricketer as their icon, only to know later that he traded the dignity of his country through match fixing. In the absence of living moral role models, children helplessly follow a showman as their icon, only to later find out that he was a drug addict indulging in sexual abuse of children.
Children follow the heroes and heroines of the entertainment world only to eventually discover that one is a terrorist, one changes women faster than he changes his clothes, the other needs cigarettes for his macho screen image and for another alcohol is synonymous to happiness.
What the world needs today is not those models whom we can only ADMIRE from a distance, but role models whom we can CHERISH from a closer proximity.
Rather than arguing about what is right and what is wrong, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I willing to do what I like to do in the presence of my parents?
- Will I be happy seeing my children do what I keep doing?
- Can I do what I like to do inside my place of worship?
Let the answers that unfold from your true self guide your sense of right and wrong.
I am sure you have heard the story of a frail old man who went to live with his son, daughter-in-law and four-year grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was poor and his steps faltered. The family ate together at the table but the shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult for the aged man.
Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about my father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating and food on the floor,” added the daughter-in-law.
So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner; and since he had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. There the grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed the dinner together. Still, the only words the couple had for the elderly man were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled some food.
When the grandson glanced at the grandfather’s direction, he sometimes saw tears in his grandfather’s eyes as he sat alone. The four-year-old watched it all in silence.
One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with some pieces of wood on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy replied, “Oh, I am making a little wooden bowl for you and Mama to eat your food when I grow older.” The four-year-old smiled and got back to work.
The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Tears began to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what had to be done.
That evening, the husband took his father’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. For inexplicable reasons, neither the husband nor the wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, or milk got spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.
Why do we conduct ourselves as though our children are not watching us? Children are remarkably perceptive. Children learn more from what they SEE than what they HEAR. The nerves that go from the eyes are far greater in number than the nerves that go from the ears. Hence the visual impact is always greater than the auditory impact. Children will follow your examples and not your advice.
The father reads out the scripture to the child to explain the virtue of honesty. Later while eating his breakfast, he instructs his child to tell the person on the phone that he is not home. The child heard the scripture but saw the liar in action.
Remember, “Like father, like child.” Unknowingly, the father has just now issued a license to the child to lie. When you ask people to lie FOR you, you have taught them to lie TO you. Through every disrespectful fight that happens between the husband and wife, they have issued a license to their children to disrespect them; the child does not see the husband and wife fighting, but sees that his father and mother need not be respected.
With habits like chewing, drinking, smoking, illegitimate sexual behaviour, and by indulging in corruption and dishonesty, and by making compromises on integrity, parents lose their right to look into the eyes of their children.
The role models in the books and scriptures rarely make a greater impact on the child than the one the child sees in action within every home. Moral science is never learnt from books but by watching those who live around us. What we leave FOR our children (materialistic abundance) is not as important as what we leave IN our children (morals and ethics).
What is the point in asking the Lord to move mountains for our children, when we as parents have failed to teach them to climb?
There is not much a ‘Father of the Nation’ can do if the ‘Father at home’ is not okay.
What to say when the whole world, including the Prime Ministers, the Presidents and the Brand icons of the world, are consumed in advocating safe sex towards prevention of AIDS, but no one wants to speak about monogamy and loyalty to one’s spouse?
What to do when the government is willing to license anything that will fill the treasury? We need not leave our children at the mercy of the world, if we can be the building blocks of character and the moral role models they can look up to from within the family.
We have enough material on business success stories. What we need are more role models to show the younger generation that it is possible to be honest, maintain integrity, live a value based life and still carry the torch in the corporate world.
We have enough material on women liberation and equality of rights. What we need are more women role models to show the next generation that they need not be enslaved, and confined to the four walls. We have enough material on parenting.
What we need are more parental role models to show the next generation that there are still people who can walk their talk, and you are one of them.
Let our freedom in life not be sans our responsibility to the next generation. That will be licentiousness.
In our own little ways, can we always be that someone that the world around us can SALUTE?
In our own private ways, can we be a positive turning point in the lives of those who come after us?
Your life, my life, and the lives of each one of us will serve either as a WARNING or as an EXAMPLE.
A warning of the consequences of neglect, self-pity, lack of direction, apathy, character compromises, messed up priorities and spiritual poverty… or an example of talent put to use, of discipline self-imposed, of objectives clearly perceived and intensely pursued, empathy, value based living and of spiritual expressions.
For many people, especially our children, we are the only Quran they will read in a lifetime; the only Vedas that they will see; the only Bible that they will experience; the only Dhammapada they will imbibe and the only Dharma that they will follow.
I know it is an awesome responsibility, but how else can you explain why you came into this planet before them?
The impact of the messenger is always greater than the mere message.
Of course, nothing is as powerful as the message being the messenger, and the messenger being the message.