I have a client — I’ll call her Joanne — who is a devout Christian. Joanne periodically contacts me and asks for my opinion about a faith-based issue she is struggling with. She recently asked me if I think she has an obligation to assist her husband’s mother — I’ll call her Frances — with her basic personal, healthcare, and financial needs.
A few years ago, I did something that was very unusual. At my daughter Christine’s wedding reception, I got up and told our guests what my five requirements were for a man who wanted to marry one of my daughters. Before I share my five requirements with you, I need to give you some background information.
When I was growing up, one saying that I would periodically hear was, “He does not suffer fools gladly.” I thought of that phrase last week when I realized that we are wrapping up the month of April, which means that a third of this year is gone. The reason I thought of the phrase was because the month of April is associated with fools because of April Fools’ Day.
I graduated from high school in 1975 (45 years ago). The school I attended was in a rural area of Peoria County. Most of the students in the school were from families in which at least one parent worked in a blue-collar job, such as manufacturing or the building trades. I came from one of those families.
My first jury trial was in 1983, the same year that I started practicing law. I was the attorney for a young woman who had been charged in federal criminal court for embezzling money from a local bank. After that case, I continued to accept criminal defense cases for several years. In one of those cases, I represented a young man who was charged with a serious crime. The evidence against him was overwhelming, and he was found guilty of the crime. At the sentencing hearing, he told the judge that he had discovered God, and he was a changed man. The judge responded to his comment by stating,
Last month, was the 38th anniversary of when I opened my law office. After 38 years, I still get frustrated with running my own business. I’m going to share something that happened to me last month that caused me to become extremely frustrated and angry. After I share my experience with you, I’m going to give you one of the keys to happiness — a key that allows you to still find happiness in a world that is fraught with frustration and anger.
When I was 11 years old, every Friday my dad made me write a personal letter to a woman he hardly knew. The woman’s name was Miss Miller, and she was my sixth-grade teacher at St. Mark Catholic Grade School. I don’t remember if it was her idea or his idea. All I remember is that after she called him on the phone a few times to complain about my behavior in class, they developed a scheme in which I was forced to write the following letter on a blank sheet of paper every week: