On my nightly run through Battery Park the Statue of Liberty is resplendent in her unsightly greenish, nearly radioactive glow, stalwart as ever, standing there across the water.
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”
As far as role models go, the Statue of Liberty is a pretty good one.
But if we’re talking about real, slightly less statue-like and slightly more animate people, my brother is also not too shabby.
Growing up my life was pretty bereft of good role models. You know, except for the Geography teacher who always spoke of his wife in practically reverent tones. Or the English teacher who will probably age so gracefully due to the fact that she never wrinkled a brow in frustration and never strained her voice above a conversational tone.
I guess I got pretty lucky in high school.
Then there’s this business of my brother. As kids we played stuffed animals together. In middle school he’d make home movies with the neighborhood kids and after I’d beg and plead for a role, my character would uniformly die within 7 seconds of my silver screen debut. Things pretty much went downhill from there. I spent the following years judging him for this, that or the other that we never really developed a relationship until about three years ago. First he was too lazy, then too irresponsible, too selfish, etc, etc.
You’ve all heard of Goldilocks. You know how the story goes.
In all of that judgment, I completely missed out on an amazing transformation.
Because now what? My brother is confident, reliable, driven, focused, patient and hard-working.
Seriously, what? When did that happen? Were we raised by the same parents? How on earth did he come out this healthy and unscathed?
I don’t want to lay on the cheese too hard, but I’ve been given a real life, down-to-earth role model that I can see up close. In the past anytime I’ve looked up to someone, I’ve always been waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting to find out that they look all nice on the outside but then they go home and beat their wife and kids and kick their dog. No such thing with my brother. Sure, it’s easier living as a bachelor than married and with kids. A family learns to push buttons you didn’t know existed, stress test you in ways you didn’t think possible.
But still. With my brother what you see is what you get. You know, “Here’s what I’m working on, here’s what I’m struggling with, and here’s my plan for both.” No drama. No frills.
I mean the Statue of Liberty is nice and all, but have you met my brother? Maybe don’t send him your weak, poor and huddled masses quite yet, but hey, at least he isn’t green. Gratitude is the only response that makes any sense on my part.