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June 10, 2010
Found on Jeff Kirby's Facebook page...

One of the best lessons I ever learned came from a man who couldn’t read. I was a recent high school graduate at the time, working for the $3 an hour at a Cassano’s Pizza King in Franklin in the summer before starting Miami.

I thought I was so …it! After all, I had the diploma and the cap and gown. And I was moving forward.

Then one day a woman was upset because of the quality of her food. She handled it like most people do – loudly, incorrectly, and in the way that made you deliberately want to burn her food the next time she came in.

But Charlie, our manager, had a real way with people. He listened, sympathized, asked what we could do to make everything better. And in the end she left the store satisfied that she had been heard. All was okay.

I found this shocking. I wanted to send her into next week, but now I realized that would have been an equally incorrect way of handling things.

Charlie showed me that knowledge is not the same as wisdom. I could diagram sentences and (sort of) recite the periodic table, but none of that mattered when dealing with everyday human situations.

I may have been a high school graduate, but I was a beginner in the school of life. At the time, I had no idea that’s a school you never leave.

Four years later, I graduated from Miami. I started as sports editor for the Springboro hometown paper, working for a very competent editor who did not have a college degree.

Surely my English degree gave me an inside track to be the ultimate journalist, right? Wrong. I stll had a lot to learn about people.

One day some news broke, and this was back in the day when people actually turned to the newspaper for news, because there wasn’t the Internet and Twitter and some guy like Bill O’Reilly in your face all the time.

It was my job to carefully address the different aspects of the scandal that had come to light. It was delicate. And it was hard. In part I had to deal with a faction of people who had swallowed the handbook on how to stir up trouble. They’re the ones who don’t actually do anything, but they know how to criticize the ones who are trying.

Cathy, my editor, had been down this road a thousand times before. She taught me things you don’t find in a textbook. She gave me the courage to take my piece in the direction I thought it should go, even though the loudmouths wanted a different take.

I learned that just as you to get the top in one area of your life, the next day you will start at the bottom of another. There will always be people around you who will teach you.

Life’s teachers don’t always have a diploma.

This really became evident several years later after I graduated from law school. It was the hardest thing I’d ever been through. I was proud to have done it. But I think God surrounds us with certain people so we don’t get too full of ourselves.

Do you know what law school teaches you about the real practice of law? Nothing. We learned the ins and outs of negotiable instruments and constitutional law, but we didn’t learn how to file a simple pleading at the local court.

Show me a successful lawyer, and I’ll show you some very talented, caring and hard-working legal assistants. In my office, Linda, Lisa, Sharon and Mavis make me look 10 times smarter than I really am.

She me a competent judge, and I’ll show you a competent clerk of courts who keeps the cases moving the way they should.

I’ve learned through the years that if you want respect, you cannot judge command it. You have to earn it. No one is ever going to hand you success.

The class of 2010 has now graduated. They’ve had a week or so of celebration. It’s well-deserved. Good job. Congratulations.

Now get up and get at it. You’re in kindergarten all over again.

By Jeff Kirby
Re-Printed From Dayton Daily News
June 10, 2010
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