Article Date: 9/1/2002

lessons learned
No Respect

Build your reputation and your practice by just being yourself.
Jack Runniger, O.D.

"Let me see you pictures," said the shopkeeper in Taormina, Sicily as he reached for my billfold, which I had opened to pay for a purchase. This was about 20 years ago, when I was in Europe attending the Essilor International Symposium on Presbyopia.

I showed him the pictures of my three daughters, (I must digress to relate a favorite story this reminds me of: "Have I showed you the pictures of my grandchildren?" asked the lady. "No, and I certainly do appreciate it!" was her companion's response.)

Who's the U.S. President?

"You no got any sons?" the Sicilian shopkeeper inquired. When I told him I did not, he continued, "You no a man!" as he laughed and waggled his finger in my face. He then noticed a photo of me with Jimmy Carter (who was then President) in my wallet. It had been taken when he came to a SECO banquet when he was running for President.

The shopkeeper was quite impressed with this, and evidently figured I must be some sort of big wheel to have had my photo taken with the President. He beckoned to his elderly aunt to come look at the picture of "el presidentay."

"Si," said the aunt as she looked at the photo. "Presidentay Ken-uh-dee." If the most important person in the world (at the time) receives that little recognition and respect, what chance do you and I have?


It happened again

Sometimes, such lack of respect can be inadvertent, as shown by another humorous episode involving President Carter, which happened on the same trip.

Because the meeting was taking place on a cruise ship, my bride had purchased a rather loud pair of trousers for me, figuring they would be appropriate wear. We soon discovered they weren't!

Mostly Europeans attended the meeting, and absolutely none of them wore any clothing that was the least bit colorful. I discovered that some of these folks were referring to me as "The American with the loud pants who looks like Jimmy Carter." A French friend tried to tell me that one reason they thought I looked like Carter was that we both had big lips. But his English wasn't that fluent and he didn't know the English word for "lips," so what he said was, "The reason you remind us of President Carter is that you both have a big mouth."

The lesson?

I was reminded of these two episodes by the recent appearance of President Carter at the AOA Congress. They reinforced a lesson I've learned over the years, but often forget: "Don't do what you do to try to impress others. 'Others' just aren't paying that much attention. Instead do what you do for your own satisfaction, which usually involves focusing on other folks in addition to yourself."

Down to earth

The Lions civic clubs have an excellent method of keeping members from becoming too self-centered. Each club has a "tail twister," whose job it is to stir up trouble and make certain that members don't become too impressed with their accomplishments or themselves.

I once served in that role in our local club when one of our members had just received a big award for service to the community.

"I was a little confused as to why Joe Tarpley received this "Service to the Community Award," I announced to the club. "Until I looked up the meaning of the word 'service' in the dictionary.

According to one definition," what Joe did to the community is what a bull does to a cow."



Optometric Management, Issue: September 2002