Who goes there?

12 Aug

Early in 2002, beginning what now amounts to a decade in pharmaceutical advertising, I discovered that the standard, technical way of describing a patient exhibiting symptoms is: “Patient presented …..” and then the symptoms are listed.

Presented? Really?

The first time I heard it, I was flummoxed. Presenting is what one does when one puts on a prepared show, or makes a gift to someone. A running nose or loose motions are far from a rehearsed and presented thing. And most certainly not a gift to the doctor.

I squared this ‘presenting’ thing off with an observation I first made in my own life. My teachers, all through my schooling years, frequently called on the following words to describe me: Stubborn. Disobedient. Recalcitrant. Questioning of authority. But when I started working, my employers seemed to invoke a related set of synonyms: Dogged. Undeniable. Relentless. Dedicated. Will establish a new status quo.

Qualities that made me a problem presence in the classroom apparently made me a profitable presence in the company.
The teachers were inconvenienced by whatever behavior I was ‘indulging’ in. My employers gained from it.

But I stayed with the presenting thing for a bit.

Patients ‘presenting’ symptoms really prrrrrrresent them to the doctor. To make sure the good medicine man understands their discomfort we sniff a little louder, we cough deeper, we say aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah with a little operatic lift to it. (Thank God there is no equivalent examination, or ‘presentation’ for a runny tummy.)

I digress.

When it came to my turn to lead a team (back in 1994), I quietly began looking for the opposite, positive quality in any person who was displaying what was to me a inconvenient or unpleasant one.

I also discovered down that path that someone may not exhibit a decidedly overtly negative quality. They make be shy, quiet, reserved and self-possessed, but ‘presenting’ what seems to others (and is being misread) as apathy, reticence and self-absorption.

As Pastor Alan Knapp of our Pittsburgh church once said, you want to lead? You have to have a big heart, big enough to hold people of every size and shape, with enough corners that they can sit and rest awhile and discover themselves.

Did I succeed? Most certainly not always. I may have failed at making connections, seeing the deeper hidden characteristic. But from what I hear from time to time, I seem to have succeeded a bit. There are more than a handful of individuals whose journey to self-fulfillment I seem to have aided for a step or two.

I hope I gave back that blessing of accurate self-discovery to them. I really hope I did.

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