If you've only time to read one post, please read yesterday's one instead!
We were privileged at church this morning to have Olympic swimmer Kirsty Balfour with us to present the prizes at the Sunday School prizegiving and to talk a little about her faith which has sustained her through the highs and lows of her swimming career. Our own Penultimate Child is a keen swimmer and was beside herself with excitement at this.
In the absence of a kitchen (we now have a working sink though, and the washing machine is plumbed in - woohoo!) we went out for lunch afterwards with Kirsty and her husband David.
Afterwards, Penultimate Child was given a present of a swimming cap with the Bejing Olympics logo and "Kirsty Balfour" on it, which will be a treasured possession. Then they had their photo taken together, then swapped tracksuit tops - just for the photo of course.
It's great for our daughter to have hsd this experience today of a really positive role model from the sport she loves and it's great that Kirsty and her husband are involved in the youth work in their own church so that they can be role models for their young folk.
Kids look up to role models; they can't help it. We are designed to seek role models as we grow up. Unfortunately our current celebrity culture doesn't always offer the best of role models for young folk but it's great that there are positive examples in our communities if we look for them.
What makes me sad in Prisonworld is that so many guys I work with haven't really ever had good role models in their lives and what makes me even sadder is when I see "STP"s (short term prisoners) look up to "lifers" (life sentence prisoners) and treat them with a sort of reverence, as if they were something to aspire to.
I'd like to see more mentoring for prisoners, people who would model a pro-social lifestyle but in an informal friendly way. Prison officers and social workers can't do it. The prisoners almost don't see them as human beings! But volunteers getting alongside them through playing football, doing artwork, participating in Bible studies, and just "chilling" would seem to me to be a good way to go. Unfortunately that's not as easy as it sounds to achieve, with all the security implications that go along with it. And the media seem to prefer to encourage society to adopt the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" approach.
But for those who haven't so much gone off the rails as who've never even seen the rails, it seems to me that positive role-modelling would be well worth a bit more experimenting with.