Jared Felkins: There are role models...then there are real role models

I bet I know what you’re thinking, not another word about Miley Cyrus.
Sep 2, 2013
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.

“I don't want to be perfect, but I do want to be a role model. My mom always tells me that imperfections equal beauty. All of us are imperfect.”

—   Miley Cyrus

I bet I know what you’re thinking, not another word about Miley Cyrus.

For the majority of you who believe that, I’m going to adhere to your wishes – for the most part.

I mean we’ve all seen Sunday’s performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, whether live, on replay or on the Internet. The fact is, there’s not a lot I can add that hasn’t already been said. And since there aren’t many people who are willing to defend Cyrus’ actions – or at least call them artistic – I’m certainly not going to start.

What I do want to write about this weekend is what makes a role model.

Sparing what Webster’s Dictionary or even Wikipedia might say on the noun, I have a few thoughts on what makes a positive role model.

Since I brought up parts of speech, the words are probably more appropriately an adjective, since it describes so many people from so many different walks of life.

For instance, my grandfather was a role model to me. He taught me some pretty big lessons about life, work and how to treat people. I appreciated the fact he was in church every time the doors were open, and I only heard him cuss twice. But they were warranted instances. Try getting your hand caught in a table saw and say something nice.

Above all, he was someone you didn’t want to disappoint. Where has that concept gone in our society? It’s as if other people’s feelings are lost on the majority of this latest generation of young people.

Remember the good old days when all your parents needed was a old-fashioned guilt trip? As a parent now, it just doesn’t work.

I digress.

As far as role models go these days, I was just about to order a plastic bubble for each of my three children following the VMAs, when I couldn’t find the remote a few nights later. Exhausted, I was forced to watch the Disney Channel against my will.

Secretly I’m quite a fan of the Mouse, but that’s another column for another day.

A between-the-shows public service announcement on the Boys and Girls Clubs caught my eye. It garnered my attention because Lebanon’s own Coco Jones was volunteering, alongside Shaquille O’Neal and his mother.

I was quite impressed how intelligent the 15-year-old Jones appeared in the interview. I was equally impressed with her involvement in the first place.
As impressive as it was seeing her on television, I wasn’t surprised.

I’ve only had limited contact with Jones. I spoke with her publicist who, after finding out I had a 10-year-old Coco fan, sent us a signed copy of her CD. I also spoke with Jones herself that day, which was an enjoyable interview.

A few months later, I took my daughter to Winfree Bryant Middle School to watch Jones perform during a beauty pageant. We were invited backstage to meet Jones, who took time out to talk to my daughter. I mean it was a real conversation, and something my daughter will not soon forget. It was first class.

So when I think about a quality role model from the realm of entertainment for my pre-teen children, Coco Jones is certainly an example. It’s not because she lives here at least part-time. Heck, Miley Cyrus is from Nashville.

It’s because Coco Jones is a class act, and I certainly hope she stays that way as she grows into an adult in a world where it’s so easy to veer off course.

But if you’re really looking for a good role model for your children, I can think of no other than a 22-year-old carpenter’s son who lived on this earth for a short while but gave us so much.

No one, before or since, has lived up to his example, but it’s something I’d like to die trying to do. The same goes for my children.

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins

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