June

February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

June 30, 2012

Cooperation Among Strangers

The Ford Quadricycle

We’ve all heard that the foundation upon which the United States economy was built is capitalism.  Ask any person to define “capitalism” and in return you’ll get either a blank look or some ambiguous answer.  If you look up “capitalism” in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, here’s what you’ll find:

“An economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market.”

Now that you’ve read the formal definition of capitalism, can you tell me in your own words what it means?

If you search for the word “capitalism” using Google, you’ll get 51,700,000 results.  When you click on the Wikipedia link (the first of the Google results), you get a 28-page explanation of capitalism.

Despite the fact that the word is constantly being thrown around by politicians, journalists, commentators, and so-called experts, no one seems to understand what it really means.  This is unfortunate.  How can we be expected to defend capitalism if we don’t know what it is?

The best definition of capitalism that I’ve seen is from Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, a company that helps business owners develop and improve their own strengths and capabilities.  Sullivan’s definition of capitalism is simple and straightforward.  Here it is:

Capitalism is an ever-increasing system of greater cooperation among strangers.

That’s it.  One sentence.  Ten words.

To illustrate what Sullivan is talking about, let’s go back to 1976.  The place was Los Altos, California, where two college dropouts, Steve Jobs and Steven Wozniak, got together and cooperated with each other to build a personal computer.  They called their first computer the Apple I.  You probably know the rest of the story.  These two men launched the most creative and innovative company of the 20th century.  You can’t go anywhere without seeing an Apple product, such as the iPhone, iPad, iPod, MacBook Air, or MacBook Pro.  Apple started out as (and continues to be) “an ever-increasing system of greater cooperation among strangers.”

June 23, 2012

The Dark Side of Humanity

On June 13, 2012, Justin Siebenthal, a 21-year-old East Peoria, Illinois, man was shot and killed inside his home by two men.  The crime took place in the middle of the night.  Siebenthal opened his front door thinking that a man he had talked to earlier about buying some drugs was going to be standing outside the door.  Instead, there were two men armed with handguns.

The two men forced their way into Siebenthal’s house.  After a brief struggle, one of the men shot Siebenthal several times and managed to also shoot another man who was in the house at the time.  Siebenthal was later pronounced dead in the emergency room of St. Francis Medical Center.  The man who had been in the house with Siebenthal escaped and is apparently still in the hospital being treated for his gunshot wound.

It turned out that the man who had called and set up the drug deal was working in conjunction with the two armed men.  Their plan was to commit an armed robbery, but the situation got out of control when Siebenthal tried to fight them off.

Last Thursday (June 21) in North Carolina, five young men ranging in age from 15 to 20 years old were arrested for the murder of a 60-year-old restaurant delivery driver.  The five men lured the driver to a dark street so they could rob him.

When the driver stopped his car with the order of chicken wings and shrimp fried rice, he was shot in the face.  He was later found slumped over inside his car, dead.  After the killing, the assailants went to a nearby house and ate the food.

On Friday (June 22) a jury in Pennsylvania found Jerry Sandusky, the former assistant football coach for Penn State University, guilty of 45 counts of sexual abuse against children.  In addition to being a well-known and respected football coach, Sandusky was the founder of The Second Mile, a nonprofit charity in Pennsylvania that provided services to underprivileged and at-risk youth.  Sandusky, who is 68 years old, was taken into custody and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

June 16, 2012

Where Have All The Heroes Gone?

Although I grew up watching heroes such as Superman, Batman, and the Lone Ranger on television, my very first heroes were my dad, Carl Williams, and my grand-father, Tom Williams. My grandfather lived next door to my parents and was of Lebanese descent.  In Lebanese, a grandfather is referred to as “Jidu.”  That’s what all his grandchildren called him: “Jidu.”

My dad was a natural “Leader” who always did the right thing.  He was the perfect foundation for our large family and always insisted that his children live life with integrity.  Jidu was a “Warrior” who had a heart of gold and an iron will.  He was a fierce defender of his family and friends.  He wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything.

During the summer of 1964, when I was 7 years old, it was Jidu who dropped me off and picked me up every day from my summer school reading class.  It was the summer after my first year in grade school, when I had trouble learning how to read.  At that time, my mom had 10 children.  Jidu was 66 years old and semi-retired.  When he found out that my mom was enrolling me in summer school, he offered to take on the responsibility of dropping me off and picking me up.

Jidu was like a second father to me.  During my formative years, I spent more time in his house than in my parents’ house.  Every afternoon when the school bus dropped me and my brothers and sisters off near our house, instead of going home, I walked straight over to Jidu’s house.  During the 1960s and early 1970s, I was his “right-hand man” when he worked on his car, on his house, or in his Laundromat.

In addition to my dad and my grandfather, I had other heroes who treated me as though I were their own son.  They were the other men in my life who cared enough to teach me some of the life lessons that I still rely upon today.  These men, all of whom were father figures to me, were my dad’s and mom’s brothers:

June 9, 2012

Where Do You Draw The Line?

A few years ago one of my injury clients, Jane, called and told me that she had recently ended a homosexual relationship and was being harassed by her former partner, Jenifer.*  During the time they were together, Jane and Jennifer lived in Jennifer’s house and split the household expenses.  They also shared a small dog that Jennifer had given to Jane as a gift.

When Jane moved out of Jennifer’s house, she took the toys they had purchased for the dog, but was unable to take the dog with her because, at that time, Jennifer was away from home and had the dog with her.  Later when Jane asked for the dog, Jennifer refused to give it to her and demanded the return of the toys.  Jennifer then hired a lawyer who threatened Jane with a lawsuit for the return of the dog’s toys and for non-payment of rent and household expenses totaling more than $6,000.00.

That’s when Jane called me.  She told me that she didn’t owe any money and although she had initially wanted the dog back, she was willing to return the toys and call it even.

In most normal male/female relationships, one of the individuals is more dominant than the other.  The same holds true for most homosexual relationships.  In Jane and Jennifer’s relationship, Jennifer was the dominant individual.

I contacted Jennifer’s attorney and told him that Jane didn’t owe any money.  I also told him that Jennifer would be willing to turn over the toys and allow Jane to keep the dog if Jane signed a written agreement that released Jane from liability for all past due debts.  The attorney immediately responded that a release of debts was “absolutely out of the question.”  He then told me that if Jane didn’t return the toys and pay Jennifer what she claimed was owed, he was going to file a lawsuit against Jane.

June 2, 2012

How To Deal With A Gay Family Member

The Catholic Church has always taught that we should love the sinner but hate the sin.  That’s exactly what we’re expected to do when we have a family member or friend who is homosexual.  The Church’s official position on homosexuality can be found in paragraphs 2357 through 2359 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which provide as follows:

Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex.  It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures.  Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”  They are contrary to the natural law.  They close the sexual act to the gift of life.  They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity.  Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2357)

The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible.  This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.  They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity.  Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.  These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (2358)

Homosexual persons are called to chastity.  By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2359)

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