The real role model

Many times people, when asked about who their role model is, tend to name somebody famous, somebody well known and often cited, people like the Pope, Dalai lama, mother Teresa, Lady Di, or even President Clinton and Tom Cruise (!?).

Do we really have to search through the many times repeated quotes of wide- smiling Hollywood stars (more often coined by their publicists than themselves) to find some inspiration? Do we just want to sound like we are well-read, worldly people, who can by heart recite sayings of long dead wise people? Do we take them to heart? Does it always have to be somebody whose name will impress those around us? Are the actions of people we live with, people we meet every day, our friends and family just as important?

Thea is my mother’s friend, and I’ve known her all my life. Now in her late sixties, she is a kind, chatty person, but because her and her husband had no children, my brothers and I felt slightly uneasy every time we visited. Everything in the house was “just-so”- the shiny porcelain figurines on the shelves were dust-free and the rose bushes outside were trimmed to perfection, but she made delicious cakes and it was worth sitting still for them. Life was good for the couple- they both worked all their lives, and as a result, by the time they retired, they had a beautiful house, a holiday flat, a yacht and two- times- a year holidays abroad. By all who knew them, they were perceived as a loving couple who never argued. A few days after their 40th wedding anniversary, Thea answered the doorbell, which was to change her life- forever. A dashing young man in his twenties was stood outside and when she appeared in the door, he asked her, if this was the house of Mr. Gasser, Thea’s husband. After confirming, he simply stated: “I am his son.”

Thea is, by her own admission, not religious. The only times she was in the church was either for a wedding or a funeral. She never read the Bible and the only time she said Jesus was when she spilt red wine on her beige rug. She never listened to a sermon and probably couldn’t name the Apostles. But what she did that day, was a remarkable Christian gesture, than many of us would be unable (or un- willing?) to do. She caught her breath and simply said: “Come in. Lets talk.”

And they did. The three of them talked and talked. One of them, needless to say, did all the apologising. She whole- heartedly accepted the son, fruit of her husband’s affair. She made him an important part of her family, introduced him to her friends and changed her will- leaving everything to him.

Many times I have asked myself: “Would I be able to do that?” I was deeply moved by her capability to forgive, to accept the fact that we all make mistakes, to simply get the best out of it and move on. I learned from her.

Every time I am being asked, who my role model is, I do not hesitate to tell them this story, but it is not always easy to choose, as there are so many people around me, who inspire me with their actions every day. My friend Zeljka, for example, who, in her mid-twenties in the middle of the war in Yugoslavia, has adopted two orphans- just to save their lives. Or my grandmother, who in the communist times took all four of her children, risked her freedom, livelihood and reputation- and had them baptised.

You see, the stars are not just smiling at us from the magazine covers- the real star may be sitting next to you right now!

Sanja Moore

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Last revised 9th July 2005