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I haven’t found any perfect people yet

Updated: April 29, 2013 11:51AM



‘True character shines through men of faith like you . . . ”

These were the words on the front of a handsome greeting card. I had retrieved the envelope addressed to “Prof. John W. Fountain” from my mailbox at work.

The message inside the card — from Hallmark’s Mahogany collection — made reference to great biblical men: Daniel, Joseph, Abraham . . .

“You’re the kind of man others admire and look up to,” it concluded. “Wishing you a very blessed Father’s Day.”

I was moved by the card and also by the thought of the sender, who happened not to be a relative but a reader.

“Thought of you right away when I saw this card,” the handwritten note read. “Your columns are like safe harbors in life’s stormy seas. I look forward to each one.”

I have gotten quite a few notes since I began writing a column three years ago, but few greeting cards.

Every few months, I receive a packet of letters forwarded from the Sun-Times. Mostly, the letters from readers commend me for my work, for my “character” and for my espousal of sound values.

Some have even suggested that I run for political office. Others say I ought to consider starting my own church, seeing as how in their eyes I would make a good pastor. (To which I quote Gary Coleman: “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?)

Some refer to me as being “godly,” a shining example, the mold for a solid family man, a role model for my race.

To be honest, such notes sometimes make me cringe, feel queasy, a bit uneasy. They make me want to issue an official disclaimer: “I ain’t Jesus, just a man!”

And truthfully, the letters — though well-meaning — only remind me of my imperfections, of the various ways in which I fall short of being the epitome of faithfulness as a Christian, of being the model husband, preeminent father.

And what also troubles me about all of this is that as human beings, it seems, we long to find “perfect” people. And maybe this is understandable in a world where corruption and scandal seem to lurk around every corner and moral degradation is status quo.

Shining examples of men and women can reaffirm one’s faith. They can remind us by the details of someone else’s triumphant tale — or by the example of a life lived above immoral fray — of what is possible. It can renew our faith in mankind. Make us feel good.

The problem is we often don’t really know the people we esteem as “kings” and “queens.” Do not see these men and women we designate as role models complete with the chinks in their armor, or their shortcomings, mistakes, weaknesses and failures. And the truth is, we all have them. None of us are immune.

And yet, our human tendency seems to be to view people in extremes: As good or bad. Black or white. Corrupt or incorrupt.

I am ever conscious of how quickly the same voices that lift and cheer you can become the chorus of those who stone and jeer you.

I stopped looking for perfect people long ago, even as I accepted that role models — whether hero or heroine — have their place and purpose. I have also accepted that there is but one savior, and none righteous but Him.

That’s not a cop-out. Just an admission by a man with a heart to each day learn from my mistakes and to try and be a better man, though, no matter how long I live, hardly a perfect man.

BTW, thanks for the card.



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