There is no big secret concerning the fact that I am not a fan of sports. In fact many that know me will quickly let you know that if I never saw another football, baseball, basketball or anything of the like my life would not be moved one way or the other. This is not to say that I am not concerned about some issues that surround sports and the athletes that make sports so popular. One thing that is ever present is the idea that sports figures serve as role models for much of the country. While there is little doubt that many of these athletes are wonderful and upstanding people I am not certain that I would hold any of them to the level of role model for me or those that I so care about.
I recall not long ago I was invited to an event in Baltimore. While I was not among the honoured guest it was an honour to be part of this event. One special person at the event was Baltimore football player Ray Rice. I remember there was much ado made about him before he entered the room. Frankly before he came I could not understand the uproar about this man that was to come. Still, I sat with some that I had worked with while eating some crabs (you must have some Baltimore crabs) and enjoying light conversation. Before long the announcement was made that Mr. Rice was about to enter and enter he did. Well, I expected a seven foot tall nearly four hundred pound man to break threshold as his massive being made it into the room. That was not to be as his body guards were larger than he was. And, being not more than five feet from him I dare say that impressed was not among the ideas that crossed my mind.
Now fast forwarding to events that Ray Rice wherein recently involved in presents the idea of an abusive man with a short temper. The fact is most of us know little about what happened that day in the elevator. One this is sure that Mr. Rice knocked out his then fiancé. That very act does little to promote the idea of what a good positive role model should be presenting to those looking up to him. And while I take issue with the idea that a sports figure is a role model simply by reason of him be a sports figure some see athletes as role models just because they are in the public view and play sports. Well, I have a different idea on what role models truly are.
I remember growing up in Baltimore having two step-grandfathers. Deacon Leroy Singletary (now deceased) was a hard working man from what I could tell and was a strong man on a number of fronts. I spent many hours with him and dare say that a bit of him has rubbed off on me. My maternal grandfather, the late Rev. William James Smith, is the person after whom I have been named. He was the pastor of a small Baptist church and one that I looked up to from as early as I can remember. Undoubtedly parts of him also rest in me and more than that name I am more than proud to bear. These two stately gentlemen were among the best role models of my childhood and have impacted me to the extent that I can and never will forget them.
Then the time came for me to enter the United States Marine Corps. To say that it was a challenge is to put kind niceties on things that were not always so kind. Early in my career I had the good pleasure of running into Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Witt. This giant of a man was not only a Marine’s Marine but also was a gentleman and a servant of God. He left this earth way too soon yet he impacted my life in ways that I cannot begin to spill in this forum. Suffice it to say that Tom was a man, a friend and a role model to make even the best step back and take a look of a man with tremendous stature and dignity.
Then there was my pastor in Hawaii. Dr. Wayne E. Anderson is a man that taught me the truth of Christendom. There were a number of things I would not have learned when I did except that this preaching, teaching, God loving man was found in my way. I can say with absolute certainty that the years I spent with this man were years of growing and learning. Yes, attending his church was much like attending book camp. There was much to learn and growing to be done. The good doctor was there for and with me through some good times and some bad times. Without him I would not have the Christian foundation I have today. Yes, Dr. Anderson served as another giant of men and a role model cannot be found in a better man.
My list of role models can go on and on yet I cannot ignore my current Bishop, Johnny C. Carrington, Sr. He is one of those old school preachers that grew up in the streets of Baltimore just blocks from where I grew up. So I had more growing to do when I returned to Baltimore and Bishop Carrington was there and remains there for me. He was there as I endured more difficult times and well as good times. Without him I could not have completed college. Without him I would not even be a member of the clergy. He is another man that stands tall and has pulled me alongside him. What a role model!
And there is another role model I simply cannot ignore. That is the Son of God, the Man Jesus Christ. Here is one that died for me and presented an example for me that points only to victory. My other role models have been wonderful and will be remembered until my last breath yet Jesus is the reason for my breath. Jesus was not with me just during portions of my life as those noted above rather He was and remains with me throughout my life. Jesus is in fact the pinnacle of role models. It is my hope that my examples to my children are enough for them to call me their role model as Christ is to me.
With this is becomes increasingly difficult for me to call people such as Ray Rice role models. It is not because of the negative incidents in their lives rather it is because of the lack of personal relationship. In order for one to be an effective positive role model the underlying characteristic must be relationship. Without relationship there is no one to look up to. If there is no one to look up to there is no role model.