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.

January 26, 2013

A Farewell To Jim Maloof

Jim Maloof at his 90th birthday celebration.

Jim Maloof at his 90th birthday celebration.

In May 2000, a reporter from the Journal Star called the office of the Diocese of Peoria and asked the woman who answered the telephone whether she could recommend a father of a large family who would be willing to be interviewed for a feature story that was scheduled to run the day after Father’s Day.  The woman put the reporter on hold and asked some of the people in the office for suggestions, and my name came up.  She then provided the reporter with my name and telephone number.

The reporter called me and asked if she could come to my home with a photographer on Father’s Day.  She wanted to interview me, Georgette, and our older children.  Because of my mistrust of the media, my initial reaction was to turn the reporter down.  But instead, I told her I would think about it and call her back the next day.  When I talked to Georgette about the request, she encouraged me to cooperate with the reporter, so I contacted her and arranged a time for her to come to my home on Father’s Day.

The plan was for the reporter to arrive at around 10:30 a.m. for the interviews.  She was also planning on hanging around after the interviews to observe our family interact with each other.  After the reporter finished the interviews, she ended up visiting with Georgette in the kitchen while Georgette prepared dinner for our family.

By the time the meal was ready, Georgette had convinced our visitors to stay and eat with us.  Since both the reporter and photographer were single and their families lived outside of Central Illinois, they didn’t have any other plans for Father’s Day.  They ended up leaving our home in the late afternoon, with the reporter and Georgette agreeing to keep in touch with each other.

The following day, there was a front-page, above-the-fold story in the Journal Star, with the headline, “Dad of seven says family time is best Father’s Day gift.”  The story included one of the comments I always make to young couples who are planning on limiting the size of their families to only two children: “Every new child is like setting your marriage on fire again.  Each time you have a child, you say ‘I do’ again for life.”

January 19, 2013

Gun Control and Abortion

The Ultimate Assault Weapon - Vacuum Suction Abortion Machine

The Ultimate Assault Weapon – Vacuum Suction Abortion Machine

The frantic efforts by the media and the federal government to restrict the rights of gun owners were on full display last week.  Despite the massive effort to push for an “assault weapons” ban, none of the advocates for the ban ever got around to defining what an assault weapon is.

It wasn’t very difficult for me to find a definition.  I turned to my trusted Merriam-Webster dictionary and looked up two words: “assault” and “weapon.”  The word “assault” is defined as “a violent physical or verbal attack.”  The word “weapon” is defined as “something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy.”

So, if we were to ban true assault weapons, we would have to ban, at a minimum, all clubs, knives, and guns.

It was obvious to the majority of people who were paying attention that the show put on in Washington was intended to stir up emotions over all guns.  The politicians loudly proclaimed that they were taking action to protect our children from harm.  They used last month’s killing of twenty children at the school in Newtown, Connecticut, as justification for taking immediate and aggressive action.  In addition, they paraded children in front of the cameras and read their letters in order to pull at the heartstrings of Americans and gain sympathy for their cause.

So here’s my question: With the fortieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legalize abortion coming up this week (January 22), wouldn’t it have been more appropriate for the politicians to ban the assault weapons that kill more than 1 million American children every year?  The weapons I’m talking about are the vacuum suction abortion machines.

Year after year, the media and our elected representatives turn a blind eye to the horrific murders of unborn American children.  Under our current laws, every one of those children who were gunned down at the school last month could have been legally killed by their mothers immediately prior to their birth.

January 18, 2013

The Destructive Triangle – Covetousness, Avarice, and Greed

As you know, two of the Ten Commandments deal with covetousness: “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s wife,” and “Thou shall not covet thy neighbor’s goods.”  Covetousness is defined as an inordinately strong desire for possessing someone or something.  In his book Victory Over Vice, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen said:

Covetousness is an inordinate love of the things of this world.  It becomes inordinate if one is not guided by a reasonable end, such as a suitable provision for one’s family, or the future, or if one is too solicitous in amassing wealth, or too parsimonious [stingy] in dispensing it.  The sin of covetousness includes, therefore, both the intention one has in acquiring the goods of this world and the manner of acquiring them.  It is not the love of an excessive sum that makes it wrong, but the inordinate love of any sum.

Simply because a man has a great fortune, it does not follow that he is a covetous man.  A child with a few pennies might possibly be more covetous.  Material things are lawful and necessary to enable us to live in accordance with our station in life, to mitigate suffering, to advance the kingdom of God, and to save our souls.

It is the pursuit of wealth as an end, instead of a means to the above ends, that makes a man covetous.

We often hear the words “avarice” and “greed” used interchangeably with covetousness.  Both avarice and greed fall under the umbrella of covetousness.  The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines “avarice” as follows:

An excessive or insatiable desire for money or material things.  In its strict sense, avarice is the inordinate holding on to possessions or riches instead of using these material things for some worthwhile purpose.  Reluctance to let go of what a person owns is also avarice.

Greed occurs when a person’s avarice becomes so extreme that it has become an uncontrollable passion.  The greedy person loves wealth and material possessions to such an extent that he continually seeks to acquire and accumulate more and more for their own sake.  Over time he develops a lust for power that is fueled by his ability to use his wealth to buy influence, get what he wants, and force his will upon others.

January 12, 2013

Was Jesus A Real Man?

Charles AtlasWhen I was 13 years old, I tore a coupon out of a comic book, wrote in my name and address, and mailed it to a company by the name of “Charles Atlas Ltd.”   The ad that I answered was written in a comic book format and started out by showing a young man who was a “97 pound weakling” being humiliated in front of his date by a bully kicking sand in his face.

The ad then showed the young man in his home kicking a chair and sending away for the Atlas body building course.  After receiving the course, the man built up his muscles and was later shown on the beach punching the bully in the face.  He was then declared the “hero of the beach,” with his girlfriend standing next to him admiring his muscular body.

When I received a Charles Atlas booklet in the mail, I read it from cover to cover and then ordered his bodybuilding course.  I wanted to be like the guy in the ad – muscular, tough, and admired by pretty girls.

During that time, I was a big fan of “All Star Wrestling” and professional boxing.  Muhammad Ali was the heavyweight boxing champion of the world.  Those were the glory days of boxing in America.  I remember Ali’s first loss of his professional boxing career.  He was beaten by Smokin’ Joe Frazier in 1971 at New York’s Madison Square Garden.  Ali made a comeback and beat Frazier in two subsequent matches, “Ali-Frazier II” in 1974 and “The Thrilla in Manila” in 1975.

To me, real men were warriors who didn’t back down from bullies.  That’s the way the Williams men were – my dad, my grandfather Tom Williams, and my uncles, Tommy and Bill Williams – tough, strong, and always ready to do battle.

This past Christmas, one of the gifts I bought for my children was a DVD of the documentary Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer.  I actually purchased the DVD because I wanted to watch it but decided to “kill two birds with one stone” by wrapping it up and giving it as a gift to my family.  As a teenager, whenever a Gene Kelly movie was on television, I made sure to watch it.  (That was before you could buy or rent movies.)

January 5, 2013

Is Life A Wrestling Match?

Verne Gagne - Wrestling Champion

Verne Gagne – Wrestling Champion

When I was growing up during the 1960s and early 1970s, most Saturdays my brothers and I watched “All-Star Wrestling” on television.  On one occasion while we were watching a wrestling match, a big brawl broke out between me and three of my brothers.  We were in the middle of the family room beating on each other, and my mom came into the room, turned off the television, and ordered all of us to “go outside with the other animals!”  It was a common occurrence for my mom to send us outside to burn off our energy and aggression.

When I was 13 years old (1970), the local television station that featured “All-Star Wrestling” advertised an event that was going to be put on in Peoria, Illinois.  Some of the same wrestlers we saw on television were scheduled to come to Peoria to compete at the Peoria Stadium.  My brothers and I were able to talk my dad into taking us to see the event.  Since the Peoria Stadium was outdoors, the wrestling ring was set up on the football field.  The event took place on a Saturday evening, and the ring was lit up with lights.

Out of all my brothers, my younger brother Peter was the biggest “All-Star Wrestling” fan.  He was seven years old when we went to see the event at the Peoria Stadium.  He knew all the wrestlers by name, and the wrestler he admired most was Verne Gagne, who at that time was the American Wrestling Association (AWA) World Heavyweight Champion.

Although my dad had told us that all the wrestling matches were staged, we didn’t believe him.  He said that the winners were chosen ahead of time and that the matches were rehearsed.  He also told us that Verne Gagne lived in the state of Minnesota, near where his uncles Joe and Unes Williams lived.  When we continued to doubt my dad, he told us he would call one of his uncles and we could ask his uncle to verify what he was telling us.

January 3, 2013

Gluttony – The Spirit Is Willing, but the Flesh Is Weak

For years we have been hearing about how the obesity epidemic in America is primarily caused by trans fats, fast food, and drinks that contain large amounts of sugar.  We are treated as though we are mindless sheep who have no will-power and are under the spell of an evil force that influences us to continually consume what will ultimately fatten us up and kill us.

As a consequence of our fallen human nature, most of us are always looking for someone other than ourselves to blame for our unhealthy and dysfunctional condition.  We buy into the claim that we’re fat because evil corporations engineer their products so we will become addicted and continue to purchase and consume them.  In addition, if we drink to excess, we blame our behavior on factors we say are outside of our control.

Every year, billions of dollars of “diet food,” pills, equipment, potions, programs, DVDs, and surgeries are sold to consumers for the purpose of helping them lose excess weight.  In most instances, we are unwilling to admit that the real reason for our obesity is our inordinate love of eating and drinking.  Who wants to admit fault when there are numerous villains to choose from?

What did the Son of God do to keep His weight down and His body in shape?  You could sum up His healthy living plan in three words – prayer, fasting, and walking.  That’s it.  No pills or protein bars.  No treadmills or abs machines.  No need for coaching or counseling.

What is unknown to most people is that there is one passion we were all born with that contributes most to obesity and the unhealthy condition we often find ourselves in – gluttony.

Fr. John A. Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary defines gluttony as follows:

Inordinate desire for the pleasure connected with food or drink.  This desire may become sinful in various ways: by eating or drinking far more than a person needs to maintain bodily strength; by glutting one’s taste for certain kinds of food with known detriment to health; by indulging the appetite for exquisite food or drink, especially when [it is] beyond one’s ability to afford a luxurious diet; by eating or drinking too avidly, i.e., ravenously; by consuming alcoholic beverages to the point of losing full control of one’s reasoning powers. Intoxication that ends in complete loss of reason is a mortal sin if brought on without justification, e.g., for medical reasons.