We’re All Role Models on This Bus

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Cesar disagreed. He asked them about their families. Did anyone there think of them as a leader?  And within the program itself, and in other places, did people ever look to them?

People thought hard. “One man said he had a young nephew who sometimes asked him for advice.  Another remembered that people at his last job would sometimes ask how he did things.  You could see people straighten up and look more confident, remembering these things.”

So when Cesar told them that they were, in fact, leaders, they listened. His rap went something like this: You’ve got people you hang with, right? People who see you every day? Well, those people pay attention to you, just like you notice them. If they see you acting the fool, they are more likely to screw up themselves. If they see you doing right, that encourages them to do better, too.

Martha, a woman who has been drinking, living in welfare hotels and on the streets for years, started crying. “I didn’t think anybody cared what I did,” she told me later. “Or even noticed. In my mind, I was completely alone.  Now I know I’m still here. I still count.” She told me she was going to take care of herself a little better, starting by going to a clinic for treatment for the skin infections covering much of her arms and legs.  “I’m going to go back to AA, too,” she said.

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7 Responses to We’re All Role Models on This Bus

  1. While it is true we can always find people in worse situations than ourown, it is even more true that we do inspire, and help. Having been in AA recovery for 21 years, I have noticed that even the slightest bit of caring works. When I worked the HIV suicide hot line our basic premise was “to listen,” and to find ways to support and encourage return calls. Being there can so often be a form of leadership.

  2. DJ Woolley says:

    It’s a primate thing -we are wired to imitate, and learn from, each other. It’s pretty cool that any one of us, simply by our actions or attitude, can encourage others to be their better selves, or to just keep going. Big up to Joseph for his spot-on response to the store clerk, wish I’d thought of it!

  3. Often when we ask someone what they are good at, they will say, “Oh nothing much. I just like to talk to people or I like to sew or I like to cook. . . ,” or any of a hundred things that seem so ordinary. But to someone who is extremely sky, talking is a challenge. To people who can’t find the hole in the needle, sewing is extreme art. To someone who can’t boil eggs, cooking is a mystery. For everything we do well without effort, there is someone who would love to change places with us.

  4. Toni Gilbert says:

    Two thumbs up David.

  5. Dan Brook says:

    Thanks for sharing this really important post. I talk to my students about issues like these, telling them that it’s not a matter of becoming a role model, but that they already are: to family and friends, to neighbors and classmates, and even to complete strangers who happen to see them do something, say something, buy something, or not do, say, or buy something.

  6. I like reading about what people are thinking, doing, experiencing, particularly when it aspires others who may be depressed at the moment.

  7. I like reading about slices of life that can inspire other planet dwellers, especially if it inspires those who may be depressed at the moment.

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