By Clyde Davis
I had completed my first year of seminary, and for my life could not understand why my seminary friends were not more accepting of Laura, who was between her junior and senior years of college. She was from Annapolis, a field hockey player with dark, short, wavy hair and the firm femininity of a woman who is an athlete without being a jock.
Whenever the talk turned to her, even if she was around, this primarily female group of friends would look knowingly at one another, “She’s from Dahtmuhth, you kneow.” It was the way they said it; accent on “you know.” It became kind of a catchphrase, but I just figured they were jealous. (Pity de fool who’s dating a snob and doesn’t realize it!)
Ten years after Laura, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a CPE program (counseling residency) at the University of Pennsylvania, which is an Ivy League school. Recently, appropos to nothing, I had cause to bring this to my wife’s attention — 15 times — and mention that I even have a sweatshirt and a piece of paper to prove it! The context, of course, was joking.
You get the picture. Is there anything more teasable than somebody who has to hide behind degrees, titles or accomplishments to keep the world from knowing what you really have? Is it fear, or insecurity, or the mistaken belief that anyone really gives a flying dropkick whether you went to Hahvuhd (or Dahtmuhth) as opposed to who you are? Is it insecurity that makes someone stress that his/her forebears came over on the Mayflower or with the Conquistadores, instead of the latest waves of immigrants?
Let’s illustrate. About two years ago, I put my life in the hands of one of the leading cancer surgeons in the country. So I was lying in the holding area, blissfully naive as to what major surgery entails, when this guy in green scrubs walks over. Did he say “I am Dr . Landraneau, Chief of Surgery, blah, blah, blah, you will respect my authority?” Nope, he said “Hi, I’m Rodney, and I’ll be directing your surgery. I wanted to talk with you and find out if you have any questions.” In a concept which martial artists will be familiar with, he was centered enough in who he is that he had no need to impress you with what he is.
Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe in respecting education, or rank, or experience, or skill, or whatever. But if you have to tell me of all your accolades, or titles, or ancestors, or accomplishments, or property, the question becomes, “Are you really telling me, or reminding yourself of your own worth?”
So I guess it’s about being centered enough in who you are, as a person, that you need not emphasize endlessly what you have, reminding others of your status. I haven’t heard from Laura since my graduation from seminary, but I suspect she has long since outgrown the youthful elitism which turned my friends off. Pity de fool who never does …
Clyde Davis is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Portales and an instructor at Eastern New Mexico University.