Teachers Come In All Guises

The death of young Jade Goody and the media circus that surrounds it has got me thinking.

I don't watch reality TV shows and I don't have much time for our obsession with celebrities. In truth, I didn't know who Jade Goody was until, during the long dark days of my illness, I happened upon a TV programme entitled 60 Minute Make-Over. It's a home decorating show, and that particular day Jade Goody was on it. She wanted to surprise her mother with a newly (partly) redecorated home. I remember watching this and being touched by Jade's devotion to her mother who looked like she had had a very tough time from the minute she was born. As she was then, Jade's mum looked much older than her stated years, and she had in her eyes that worn down look that people on the street often have. I then forgot all about Jade, until a couple of months ago when her illness seemed to be on the front cover of every single magazine in my hospital's waiting room.

From that point on, everywhere I went somebody had something to say about Jade Goody and her fight with cancer. I feel a healthy disregard for celebrities but I must say this: I was shocked at what some people were saying. Was Jade really lying about the severity of her illness for personal gain? I am not that keen on too much cynicism in the first place but that sort of accusation was outright cruelty. It was all the things Jade herself had been accused of in the past: ugly and ignorant. Sorry but two wrongs do NOT make a right.

As any mother would, I felt sad for Jade and all the other women who leave this earth whilst their children are still young. I am so grateful life was kind enough to never put me in that position. At least, Jade's celebrity status enabled her to leave her children well provided for financially. That must have been a weight off her mind.

The media keep telling us that Jade's death was in the manner of her life: right up there in the public eye. That's obvious. What may be less obvious is that a part of Jade was a teacher. Not only did she 'educate' young women about the importance of cervical smear tests (thus doing more for the health of young girls than any government campaign has ever achieved), but she also taught me something. She showed me that strength of spirit is not dependent on social/family background, educational achievement, acquired knowledge or sophisticated understanding: it is accessible to ALL of us, if we have the courage to grab it.

It is not the first time I have noticed that learning sometimes comes to us in a package we don't particularly approve of. Indeed, our most valuable lessons may not come from those we admire but from those we might at first consider lowly. Because of it, I am always mindful not to disregard a valuable insight just because it comes in a wrapping I don't find all that attractive or interesting.

Teachers do indeed come in all guises - even that of an uneducated girl from the wrong side of the tracks. 

Thank you Jade. May you rest in peace.

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