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Sometimes just good is good enough

November 30, 2008|By CHRIS COPLEY

Two weeks ago, a few days before the Great American Smokeout, the Lifestyle department at The Herald-Mail ran a story about Washington County middle school teacher Dana Coe, who quit smoking in 2007 and has been smoke-free for a year.

Coe had an interesting story: For a dozen years, he had hidden a smoking habit from his wife. Then, she discovered his habit and confronted him, and he agreed to sign up for smoking cessation classes.

To me, it was an inspiring story of confession and redemption.

But Tuesday morning, I had a call from an indignant reader. He was upset because he felt that by profiling Coe, we set him up as a role model. And the caller said that since Coe admitted misleading his wife for 12 years, he didn't believe that we should have done that.

I got the caller's point, in theory - that a role model should be above reproach. But, in real life, that's an awfully high bar. People are complicated. Who is really above reproach?

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I still like Coe's story as an example of a person who recognizes undesirable behavior in himself and makes a life change. But the caller got me thinking about role models. Who qualifies? Who is good enough?

I considered myself. One of my most important jobs is to do my part to raise my kids. As a dad, I never set out to be a role model. Frankly, I'm a shy person who is generally uncomfortable in the spotlight. Plus, I know I have shortcomings. I didn't want my kids trying to imitate my life, warts and all.

But as a young dad, I realized that one of the most powerful ways to pass on values to children is to live those values every day, in full view of the kids. So I made it a point to live (visibly) what I believed - to love their mother, work hard, share in food prep and house chores, admit mistakes, be active in family life and so on.

I mostly lived up to my own standards, and apparently my parenting technique worked well enough. I'm really happy with the way my kids are turning out. I certainly was not above reproach, but to my children, my modeling has been useful.

Does that make me a good role model? No, not in all circumstances, but in a few narrow areas, yes. And that's good enough for me.

And that's how we work in the Lifestyle department. We don't interview people because they're beyond reproach, but because they have noteworthy skills, good stories to tell, interesting recipes or something else about their lives that readers might find compelling.

And if readers are informed, entertained or inspired by the personal examples in our stories, well, that's good enough for me.

Chris Copley is Lifestyle editor of The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2343, or by e-mail at chrisc@herald-mail.com.

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