To you and me, what is important?

By Joseph Cramer, MD

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, June 23 2014 5:40 p.m. MDT

Updated: Monday, June 23 2014 5:16 p.m. MDT

Many, many moons ago as a young man, I lived in the faraway land of Bolivia as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. . In that role, my full-time, 24/7 companion and I tried to get the people of a small town in the Amazon River Basin to listen to our message.

To get their attention, we used the slogan “A mi, me importa” — “To me, it is important.” It was a crude translation of “I care.”

The message to the humble farmers and ranchers of northeast Bolivia was that these two North American kids cared about them. We did, and we still do.

Eons later and in English, I pose a similar question: “To you, what is important?”

Some years ago on a Sunday in the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport there was a horde of Minnesota Vikings football fans. They were in full regalia, including purple, gold and horned helmets. They were loving life, with or without a team victory, boosted by a few swigs of grog. They were showing with their time and credit cards what was important to them.

On a holiday, I met a couple of retired schoolteachers. The husband loved trains. I mean, he really loved trains. He had his own miniature train layout that filled his whole basement. He did not stop with toys. He rode the rails of the world, including the Russian Trans-Siberian Railway, crossing 11 time zones. It would not be authentic if he had sat and slept in the first-class car. To show that he cared about the real train experience, he was in second class like everyone else.

A friend of mine collects pig trinkets. My mother-in-law would visit secondhand stores looking for sterling silver spoons. There are political junkies. One or more people have their gun collections. There are causes and then there are causes about causes. Someone's interest may be to cure cancer; another sews quilts; and another raises cats.

The grandfather of three boys in my practice was Volunteer of the Year for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. There was no CF in his family. He did it because he cared. It was only years later that he learned his daughter and her husband carried the cruel gene for this fatal lung and endocrine disease. There was a 1-in-4 chance they would have the disease.

I recently met an Italian neurologist. He is superbly Mayo Clinic-trained and is an expert in movement disorders. In chatting, he revealed that he cared about futbol, the real world’s passion. I mentioned I had attended a World Cup soccer match in 1994 in the RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington, D.C. He then proceeded to describe the game, the score and that Saeed Al-Owairan kicked the only goal. He truly cares about futbol.

My brother-in-law’s brother-in-law cares about the Beatles. Who doesn’t from our generation? He, however, cares enough that he traveled to England to see the sights and walk the streets of Liverpool. He would have resurrected John and George if that were within his power. He sings their songs, plays their music and beats his drums to the rhythm. He cares about his family, his work and faith, but Abby Road is “a el le importa.” To him, it is important.

With the explosion of media, we show with our eyes and pocketbooks what is important to us. There are shows on pawn shops, modified choppers and car rebuilds. We are supposed to care about the pulling power of Dodge Ram, the gentleness of Dove and the coldness of beer.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if we pushed all of that aside and cared about each other? Watch the World Cup, but kick the ball with your kids.

After all these years, the question remains the same: “To you and me, what is important?”

Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a board-certified pediatrician, fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing physician for 30 years and a hospitalist at Primary Children's Hospital and the University of Utah. Email: jgcramermd@yahoo.com

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