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  • Reverend James Squire

Fame and Recognition

A week ago, I walked onto the surgery unit of a Philadelphia Hospital that serves most of South Philadelphia. There was not all the glitz and glamour that you find at Penn or Jefferson. This hospital had lost all of its outward luster. When I was walking to the surgical unit, I was stopped several times by people who asked, “Are you famous?” or “I have seen your picture somewhere.” Vicki thought that this was hilarious and volunteered, “Yes, he is famous!” She meant it as a joke, but they took her seriously.

I guess that was my fifteen minutes of fame that Andy Warhol said that we would all have. That is perhaps his most memorable line that ironically made him famous for more than his art. Perhaps he is right at one level. When I asked my Ethics class if they wanted to be famous or just recognized for what they did with their lives, almost to the person they preferred recognition over fame. I will share some of the conclusions that we came to in an engaging discussion.

Fame is how important you seem on the outside to people. It isn’t enduring for most fame can be rather short lived. To be recognized for your good work that lasts over time should be the goal and not some glitzy reason that won’t make a difference in the world. Students always try to move a discussion to a way that you can have it all. They would say that you could be famous and recognized all at the same time such as recognition for some form of excellence in sports or Sister Mary Scullion and her work with the homeless. Her program is the model for all others in the nation.

This led us to a discussion of Utilitarianism where your guiding principle is the greatest good for the greatest number, but it has a catch. What is the person’s primary motivation and their secondary gain? For example, Sister Mary Scullion’s primary motivation is to help the homeless. Her secondary gain is that she is both famous and recognized. I have been to gatherings where Bon Jovi celebrated her work to which he contributes financially as well as feeding those in need.

If you are a student who does community service, what is your primary motivation? Is it to pad your college application or is it to help someone? Your answer makes a difference.

Too many people in Hollywood want to be famous, work hard to achieve that fame and then complain that the press always is in hot pursuit of their candid pictures. That’s fame. It is not, in my opinion, recognition, if your primary goal is to get your picture taken against your wishes.

I have a Presbyterian clergy friend who travels to Scotland each summer for his vacation. When I asked him, “Why?”, I thought that I would get some lofty response. He said instead, I think jokingly, that he goes to sharpen up his Scottish accent for people are “more entranced by that than the content of what I say.”

Fame, Recognition, Primary Motivation, Secondary Gain. This post is to anonymously recognize the staff at the hospital where I have a new surgeon who did major surgery on my left hand. The first two procedures were done improperly and left me with months of inflammation and pain. My new hand surgeon hopefully has corrected the issue. He had to overcome a lot of obstacles so it has resulted in this recovery being more painful and problematic. Yesterday he told me to use my fingers more to prevent scarring of the tendons and ligaments. Hence, I am back at the computer. I got him in an indirect way. However, Vicki read his bio when I was undergoing the procedure and discovered in print what we had heard. He is a hand surgeon rock star. The proof will be in the end result.

I learned a lesson about fame and recognition while I was there. Inside this old building I was taken care of by rock stars of the medical profession from the receptionist to all the medical staff. If you have been watching the sensational, “Mare of Easttown,” the HBO streaming murder mystery series, you know that it was filmed in Delaware County. Kate Winslet is the star and has worked hard to capture the working-class Delaware County accent where water is pronounced wudder. The Eagles are the Iggles. SNL did a parody of the show emphasizing all the Delaware County accents of various words in the extreme.

A good many of the staff of the hospital were from Delaware County. We could have been doing a scene in “Mare of Easttown.”

The last nurse in the recovery room could have had a central role in “Mare of Easttown.” When I asked her if she saw the series, she said, “Not yet! I have too much going on. I work fulltime here, have three sons, two in college and one in high school. My mother who is 90 has been driving until she fell and broke her leg and has moved in with us so that I could take care of her.”

The nurse worked there for thirty-three years. Loves her work. Loves her colleagues. “We go way back!”

I was the last to leave the recovery room. I got in the wheelchair to leave. Most staff drop you off at the door. This nurse took me right to the car in the parking garage and wouldn’t have it any other way. Keep in mind that I was her last patient and she could leave after me, but she didn’t want to rush things even though she had a ton of family obligations waiting for her at home.

Here is the ethical head fake. You may have seen this coming. Your primary motivation in your actions links you to fleeting fame or enduring recognition. The primary motivation of the medical staff, and this nurse in particular, was not fame! What I should have said along with “Thank you” was to tell her to tell her friends that “Fame is overrated. Choose recognition for high quality care.” Yes, even in a building that lacks glitz and glamour. I have already filled out the hospital surgery evaluation. I will write a letter to the President of the Hospital to make sure that the staff gets that recognition they deserve as soon as I am able. I could do no less.

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