I recently received a link to a Barna survey (http://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/467-teen-role-models) showing the details of who and why of teen role models.
The answers somewhat surprised me. For the most part the top rated role models were family members. They asked the teens to pick non-parent role models and relatives, coaches, teachers, and pastors came in pretty high on the list. Celebrities were at the bottom unless you include Barak Obama who got 3% (the same percentage that Jesus Christ got in the same study).
The teens said that in picking their role models they looked for someone that had accomplished goals, provided encouragement, and had a lifestyle they respected and could emulate.
I never wrote the "My Role Model" essay in middle school but here are my top three role models from my teenage years. If you had asked me then, I don't think I would have admitted some of these but with the wisdom of wrinkles I've discerned the following:
1) Rev. Trinka Kittle - Trinka was my Associate Pastor and led the youth group I was a part of. I know now that being a female in ministry in the 1980s must have been difficult but I really never noticed. All I noticed is that she loved God, she loved others, and she taught me how to do the same. If it weren't for her (and a few other exceptional female ministers), I don't know that the decision to follow my call would have been so easy.
2) My Aunt Laura - Aunt Laura lived in an exotic place - Arizona :-) It seemed like the other side of the world. Visiting her warranted my first airplane ride. Not only did she live in an exotic place she also was a world traveler. I often heard stories from my mom about her travels to Mexico and California - also exotic places in my mind. Finally she was blessed like my mom with dark hair. My mom kept telling me that people would kill for my hair color but I never believed it. Dark brown like Aunt Laura and my mom as definitely more exotic. You see the pattern here? She gave me my love for travel and my love for things that are different than I expect them to be.
3) My parents - Okay before my mom reaches for a kleenex I must tell you that she's crazy. She knows is and at times controls it but despite that she's got some good things going for her. Dad is immature and will always be but despite this flaw he and mom shared one great quality - humor. I had some crazy things happen growing up but my favorite was the laughter we shared. I can remember my parents having a shaving cream fight. I remember my mom dressing up like Ms. Wiggins to do a spoof at school. My dad dressed up like Vanna White for a party at work. They made me laugh. They still do. And I know that if it weren't for their laughter, I wouldn't be who I am today. I really wanted to say Robin Williams, Bill Cosby, or Carol Burnette in this third slot but when I look back at it - my parents gave me this gift so that I could appreciate the celebrities who use theirs.
I hope that I can be a role model to others. I'm not perfect but neither were my role models. I feel that I've already given people the gift of learning about God's love, traveling to different places, and laughing for the right reasons. I hope I can continue to do so and that you can take the time to thank people in our life that inspire you as well.
Until Everyone Hears,