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.

December 30, 2017

What Did Mary Really Know?

Every year during the Christmas Season, there are articles published that are critical of the song, Mary Did You Know. As expected, in early December, Fr. Robert McTeigue, SJ, published an article with the title, “The Problem With ‘Mary Did You Know.’” In the article, Fr. McTeigue criticized the following lyrics: “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.”

Fr. McTeigue’s complaint was that the lyrics imply that Mary was a sinner who needed to be delivered from her sins. This is contrary to Catholic doctrine which states that Mary was preserved free from all stain of original sin from the moment of her immaculate conception, which allowed her to be a pure vessel in which the Son of God could be conceived and born without ever having come into contact with sin.

Another article that was published before Christmas stated that the song implies that Mary was not fully aware that she was the mother of God. The article went on to say that anyone who is familiar with the Bible knows that Mary possessed knowledge that she was the Mother of God, not only because of the Angel Gabriel’s announcement (Luke 1:26-56), but also because of her “song of praise” — known as “The Magnificat” — which indicated that she was aware of her role in the salvation of mankind. Here are the first two sentences of the Magnificat:

My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his handmaid. For behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for he who is mighty, has done great things for me and holy is his name. (Luke 1:46-49)

Whenever I read anything about the life of Mary, I think about a book that I read in the early 1980s, while I was in law school. The title of the book was, The Life of The Blessed Virgin Mary. The content for the book was taken from the recorded visions of the well-known 19th-century Catholic mystic, Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774 – 1824).

June 29, 2013

What Does Madonna, Brad Pitt, and the Supreme Court Have in Common?

Brad PittI graduated from high school in May 1975 and began my freshman year at college in August of that same year.  During the fall semester, the gay rights activists on campus set aside a day that they designated as “Gay Day.”  They put an announcement in the school newspaper that on Gay Day, anyone who was in support of gay rights should show their support by wearing jeans to class.  At that time, there were over 20,000 students attending classes at the university, and approximately 80 percent of them wore jeans to class every day.

The gay movement was in the beginning stages of organizing on college campuses, and the attitude among the majority of students was that the gay students (who were mostly men) could do whatever they wanted as long as they left everyone else alone.  For that reason, a majority of the students were angry when they were told that wearing their regular attire to school on Gay Day meant they were showing their support for gay rights.

When Gay Day rolled around, almost every student in the school wore dress pants to class.  It was the only day of the school year when most of the students dressed up to attend classes.

By the time I was a junior in college, the gay rights activists on campus were holding weekly “gay straight rap” meetings.  One definition of the word “rap” is “to talk freely and frankly.”  The meetings were advertised in the school newspaper and on posters placed all over campus as an opportunity for straight people to sit down with gay people to have an open and frank discussion about the gay lifestyle.

That year I was renting an apartment with three other students.  One of them was a friend of mine from Peoria, and the other two were from Chicago.  Prior to moving into the apartment, I had never met the two students from Chicago.

June 27, 2013

Did Jesus Experience Fear?

One of the most common emotions I see among clients is fear — fear concerning a job, a medical condition, a family member, a financial problem, a legal problem, the state of our economy, the state of our culture.

Fear often leads to worry, anxiety, despair, anger, and/or panic.  The word “fear” is defined as “anxious concern” or “an unpleasant, often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

Do you think Jesus ever experienced fear while He was on this Earth?  Before that question can be answered, a different question must first be addressed: Prior to His crucifixion, was Jesus capable of experiencing fear in the same way we experience fear?

We know that although Jesus is one person, He possesses two natures — one divine and one human.  Prior to the incarnation, Jesus was a divine person with a divine nature.  When He was conceived in the womb of Mary, He “became flesh” and took on an additional (human) nature.  As a human, Jesus was capable of experiencing the same emotions you and I experience.

Did Jesus ever experience “anxious concern” or “an unpleasant or strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger”?  Yes, He did.  It happened while He was praying in the garden of Gethsemane.  As He contemplated what He was going to have to go through to redeem man, He sweat blood from the pores of His face.  We refer to the mental and spiritual suffering that He went through at that time as “the agony in the garden.”

What did Jesus do in response to the anguish He was going through?  He prayed to His Father in heaven, “If it is thy will, remove this cup from me: but yet not my will, but thine be done.”  (Luke 22:42)

We can learn how to deal with fear from the example of Jesus.  In addition to praying for relief from what is tormenting us, we need to also be willing to completely surrender ourselves to God.  The word “surrender” is defined as “the action of yielding one’s person or giving up the possession of something, especially into the power of another.”  Another word for surrender is “abandonment,” which is defined as “giving up to the control or influence of another person or agent.”

June 22, 2013

Dangerous Snoops And Peeping Toms

NSADuring my first year in college (1975), I sent a telegram to my sister Colleen who was a senior in high school.  She was in the school play and I wanted to get a written message to her wishing her luck on the opening night of the play.  The message consisted of two short sentences and was delivered to her the same day that I sent it.

I don’t remember the exact cost of the telegram, but I do remember that I had to pay by the word and that it was expensive because it required manual labor to deliver it to her.  At that time, there were only three ways to deliver a written message to a person who was in another city: (1) hand delivery, (2) telegram, and (3) the U.S. Postal Service.  Fax machines were not yet invented and there was no such thing as FedEx.

I’ve written before about the paper route I had when I was 12 years old (1969).  One of my responsibilities was to collect money from my customers on Wednesdays.  Every Friday, I met the representative for the newspaper at Stafford’s Dairy (where I picked up the newspapers every day), and gave him a check for the previous week’s newspapers.

When I started delivering newspapers, my mom helped me open a checking account and taught me how to write checks.  Once I had the ability to write my own checks, any time I wanted to order something in the mail, I simply completed the order form and mailed it in with a check.  Prior to that, I had to always try to convince my mom to write a check for me for products she didn’t think I needed.

After I started ordering my own products through the mail, I made sure I was the first one to check the mail every day so I could grab my package when it arrived.  I knew that if I checked the mail my mom would never see a package I ordered, and I wouldn’t have to justify my purchase with her.

June 15, 2013

The Seven Pillars of Fatherhood

FatherhoodEarlier this month, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), which is a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced an $800,000 grant that is designed “to disseminate information about good fatherhood parenting practices by building research and practice knowledge and capacity” and to “increase positive father involvement in the lives of their children.”  (Reread what I just quoted and see if it makes any sense to you.)

The ACF website states that the agency “administers more than 60 programs with a budget of over $49 billion, making it the second largest agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”  Here’s a question I would like to ask the Administration for Children and Families: After having spent $49 billion annually for the past several years, what documented proof can you provide that you have improved the parenting skills of mothers and fathers in America?

I’m going to do the ACF a favor by providing the “practice knowledge” that it needs so it can “disseminate information” about good parenting to fathers in America.  You may say, “Hey Harry, what qualifications do you have to offer advice to fathers about good parenting practices?”

I would respond by saying that I have two primary qualifications: (1) I learned the craft of parenting from my own parents who successfully raised 17 children (nine boys and eight girls), and (2) my wife and I raised seven children of our own (one boy and six girls).  Although I don’t have a college degree in psychology and I don’t work for a government agency, I would be willing to bet my life that the advice I provide here today will be of much greater value than anything the bureaucrats at the ACF eventually come up with.

Based on my personal experiences, I’ve come up with what I call “The Seven Pillars of Fatherhood.”  Each of the seven pillars represents an attribute that I believe a father must possess in order to properly perform his duties.  The seven pillars are:

June 13, 2013

How Well Do You Know God?

If you were to ask me to describe someone I’m familiar with, I would start by naming the person’s attributes.  An attribute is defined as “an inherent characteristic” or “a word ascribing a quality.”  For example, if you asked me to describe my dad (Carl Williams), I would respond by saying that he’s organized, practical, protective, by-the-book, private, efficient, productive, hardworking, trustworthy, skilled, confident, decisive, and strategic.  My description of how I remember my grandfather (Tom Williams) would include the following attributes: bold, vigorous, genuine, intense, self-reliant, admired, dominant, forceful, trustworthy, confident, decisive, and independent.

If I were to ask you how you would describe God, what would you say?  Would you be able to name several of His attributes?

In Fr. John Hardon’s “Basic Catholic Catechism Course,” he named 12 of the attributes that are possessed by God, each of which is referenced in the Bible:

1. God is unchangeable – “For I the Lord do not change.”  (Malachi 3:6)

2. God is eternal – He is immortal with no beginning and no end.  “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting thou art God.”  (Psalm 90:2)

3. God is omnipotent – He is almighty and all-powerful.  “For with God nothing is impossible.”  (Luke 1:37)

4. God is omniscient – He is all-knowing.  “For all things were known to the Lord God before they were created, so also after they were perfected he beholdeth all things.”  (Ecclesiasticus 23:29)

5. God is omnipresent – He is everywhere.  “Do I not fill heaven and earth?”  (Jeremiah 23:24)

6. God is all-just – He rewards those who do good and punishes those who do evil.  “For he will render to every man according to his works.”  (Romans 2:6)

June 8, 2013

Rebellion At A High School Graduation

Roy Costner IV

Roy Costner IV

Last week, the high school valedictorian for Liberty High School in South Carolina defied local school district rules when he ripped up his preapproved speech in front of everyone who was at the school graduation ceremony, and then proceeded to deliver a speech in which he emphasized the importance of Christian values.

At one point during the speech he said, “Those that we look up to, they have helped carve and mold us into the young adults that we are today.  I’m so glad that both of my parents led me to the Lord at a young age, and I think most of you will understand when I say, Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name…”

As he concluded his recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, the crowd erupted with cheers and thunderous applause.

Earlier this year, after the “Freedom From Religion Foundation” filed a complaint against the Pickens County School District for saying a prayer at board meetings, the school district decided to end invocations at all high school functions and replace prayer at high school graduations with a moment of silence.

Roy Costner IV, the valedictorian of the Liberty High School graduating class of 2013, didn’t like what the school district did so after he stepped up to the podium and started reading from his approved speech, he hesitated, ripped the speech in half, and then pulled another speech from his pocket.

After the graduation ceremony, in response to a question from a reporter, Pickens County School District spokesman John Eby said, “The bottom line is, we’re not going to punish students for expressing their religious faiths.  He’s a graduate now.  There’s nothing we can do about it, even if we wanted to.”

A news release that was subsequently issued by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) quoted its co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor: “The valedictorian who so insensitively inflicted Christian prayer on a captive audience at a secular graduation ceremony is a product of a school district which itself has set an unconstitutional example by hosting school board prayer.”

June 1, 2013

The Destruction of the Boy Scouts of America

Boy ScoutsOn May 23, 2013, the 1,400-member National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) voted in favor of a resolution to add the following language to the requirements for being a Boy Scout:  “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.”  The resolution passed by a wide margin, with 61.5 percent voting in favor of the change and 38.5 percent voting in opposition.  The new requirement will be binding on all councils and units when it goes into effect January 1, 2014.

In an op-ed that was written by BSA’s president, Wayne Perry, and published in USA Today the day before the vote, Perry stated that the “proposed resolution reaffirms our core belief in doing one’s ‘duty to God.’  It would remove the restriction denying membership to youth on the basis of sexual orientation alone and would maintain the current membership policy for all adult leaders.”  Prior to the vote on the resolution, Perry lobbied the members of the National Council to vote in favor of the resolution.

The distinction between “youth” and “adult” has already started to cause problems for the BSA.  Various LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) groups have expressed outrage that a 17-year-old Scout who is homosexual can assist in leading children who are as young as 10 1/2 years old, but that same Scout is forbidden from performing his duties after he reaches the age of 18.  The LGBT groups have a valid point.  How much more influence does an 18-year-old have over a young boy than he had when he was 17 years old?

Prior to the decision of the National Council, the BSA did not actively seek to identify the sexual preferences of Scouts; however, if a Scout publicly identified himself as a homosexual, he was barred from participating in the organization.  What happened that convinced the BSA to abandon its policy of denying membership to Scouts who are open or avowed homosexuals?