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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last week, I ran into an old client at the Peoria County Courthouse. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him Noah. I represented Noah more than 20 years ago for some serious alcohol-related traffic ticket violations. During the last case that I assisted him with, I told him that it was obvious to everyone who knew him that he had a problem with alcohol. He became angry with me and refused to admit that he had an alcohol problem. After that, he continued to get into trouble with the law, but stopped coming to me for assistance.
Noah was in his 20s when he first came to me for legal assistance. He had graduated from a Catholic grade school and high school. Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved in with his Catholic girlfriend. They lived together for several years. She broke up with him after she finally came to the conclusion that he was never going to make a commitment to her.
I hadn’t seen Noah since the day I told him that he needed to get help for his alcohol problem. But then, within a period of six months, I saw him on three different occasions — two times at the courthouse and one time at a wedding that I attended.
When I saw Noah last week, I realized that I was running into him for a reason. I had originally planned on going to the courthouse the day before to file some documents, but I got tied up and ended up going the next day. That’s when I saw Noah.
When he saw me walk into the office where court documents are filed, Noah came over to me and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes. I said yes and met with him in the hallway after I was done filing my documents. He looked ragged and worn out, and he appeared to be much older than his age.
Noah began the conversation by describing a criminal case that was pending against him. While proclaiming his innocence, he told me that he was being railroaded. After I listened for a while, I interrupted him and asked, “Is your mom still living?” He was taken aback by my question, but answered that she had died when he was in high school.
During a recent storm, the electrical power in my daughter Maria’s house went out. Maria and her husband have four young children. Several other homes in their neighborhood also lost power. Apparently, a couple of trees were hit by lightning and one of the trees fell and snapped a power line.
After Maria learned that the power company had put out a statement that the electricity would not be restored until the following morning, she emptied the contents of her refrigerator into boxes. Her husband then took the boxes over to a relative’s house to store the items in the relative’s refrigerator. Maria wasn’t worried about the items in her freezer, because depending on how full a freezer is, the items can stay frozen from 24 to 48 hours.
As promised, the power was restored the following morning, which allowed Maria and her neighbors to breathe a sigh of relief.
I have two questions for you to consider: What if the power in Maria’s neighborhood had been off for a month? What if the power for the entire City of Peoria had been off for a month?
While there was only a minimal amount of suffering that resulted from the power being off for less than 24 hours, there would have been an immense amount of suffering if the power had been off for a month.
The amount of suffering that is associated with a power outage is directly proportional to the time that it takes to make the necessary repairs to restore the power. The longer it takes to make the repairs, the longer and more intense the suffering.
In the spiritual world, sin works the same way. Every sin disrupts the natural order and damages a person’s relationship and standing with God. The more serious the sin, the more serious the damage.
After a sin is committed, there is suffering that occurs until the damage has been repaired. In most cases, the suffering extends beyond the person who committed the sin to the person’s immediate family. In some cases, the suffering spreads to the person’s extended family and community.
Beauty and the Beast was originally released in 1991 by Walt Disney Pictures as an animated musical and romantic fantasy. The movie was a box-office success and produced gross worldwide revenue of $425 million.
In 1994, Disney successfully launched Beauty and the Beast as a Broadway musical. After several years on Broadway, community theaters were given permission to rent the script for local productions.
The Corn Stock Production that Maria was involved in featured eight performances over a period of two weeks. I attended three of those performances. At each of the performances that I attended, there were young girls ranging in ages 4 to 10 years old who were dressed up like Belle. After each of the shows, the girls lined up with their mothers to meet Maria and to get a picture with her. It was fun watching the way the young girls behaved around Maria. They treated her as though she was a real-life princess.
The show represented the best of what Disney has always been known for: good, wholesome, family entertainment. Disney did a masterful job of combining music, dancing, romance, and conflict. As usual, in the end, good conquered evil and the prince and princess lived happily ever after.
In 2014, Disney announced that it was working on a live-action film adaption of the original 1991 animated film. After more than two years of work on the film, Disney released its first trailer in November 2016. The trailer accumulated more than 127 million views in the first 24 hours after its release, breaking all previous records for trailers. Since the release of the first trailer, Disney has done a first-rate job of promoting the film.
If you were a teenager during the 1970s, you’ll remember most of these TV shows: All in the Family, The Carol Burnett Show, Bob Newhart, Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, Marcus Welby, MD, M*A*S*H, Happy Days, The Rockford Files, The Brady Bunch, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Sanford and Son, Good Times, The Jeffersons, Columbo, Hawaii Five-O, and Starsky and Hutch.
It has been said that the 1970s was the “Golden Age of Television.” Unlike most of today’s TV shows, the television shows of the 1970s were family oriented. They were well written, and provided wholesome entertainment. Unfortunately, today, most TV shows promote and glorify premarital sex, homosexuality, adultery, violence, and/or single-parent households.
One of the most popular TV shows of the 1970s was a show that was named after the popular actress, Mary Tyler Moore. At the time that the show was launched, Mary Tyler Moore was already a well-known TV actress who had played a housewife in The Dick Van Dyke Show, which was a popular weekly series from 1961 to 1966.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered in 1970 and lasted seven years. In the show, Moore’s character was Mary Richards, a single woman who worked in a man’s world and was determined to make it on her own. The show was groundbreaking because at that time, career women were rarely seen on television, and they were never featured as a show’s lead character.
My memories of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and all the other popular shows of the 1970s came flooding back to me last week when I learned that Moore had died at the age of 80.
Ironically, one of the most popular parts of The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the opening theme song and footage that showed Moore in her role as a single working woman in a major-metropolitan city. The theme song began with these lyrics:
It’s been a couple of years since my three youngest daughters — Mary, Christine, and Teresa — stopped describing boys to me in the way they had always described them. Before they stopped, whenever they talked about a new boy they had met and liked, they focused on how nice he was. They would say, “He’s such a nice guy. You can’t help but like him.”
That particular description of their newfound friends really irritated me. Every time one of them mentioned how nice a guy was I responded by saying, “Eighty percent of the guys in prison are nice guys. The other 20 percent are mean or evil. The 80 percent who are nice have other critically important character flaws that disqualify them from further consideration as a boyfriend.”
At first, the girls thought I was being cynical, negative, and overprotective of them. Each time one of them talked about how nice a guy was, I reminded them that being nice wasn’t a sufficient enough reason to consider developing a relationship.
At one point, I explained to the girls that during the 1980s and 1990s, I represented several young men who were charged with crimes. Eighty percent of them were nice guys. They simply couldn’t control their behavior. Many of them were addicted to alcohol, drugs, or pornography. Most of them were inherently dishonest and blamed everyone but themselves for their problems. All of them were experts at making excuses for their behavior, always finding a reason why they were not responsible for their actions.
After several months of warnings about how they needed to be careful not to let their guard down just because a guy came across as being nice, my daughters stopped describing guys as being “nice.” At least around me they stopped. Instead, they talked about other positive traits that the guys possessed.
Last week at the end of my weekly Adoration Letter article, I asked a question: “So what can Catholic couples do to stay happily married while the world around them is falling apart?” Before I answer the question, we need to take a look at the Catholic Church’s definition of marriage.
The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines marriage as follows:
As a natural institution, the lasting union of a man and a woman who agree to give and receive rights over each other for the performance of the act of generation and for the fostering of their mutual love.
The state of marriage implies four chief conditions: (1) there must be a union of opposite sexes; it is therefore opposed to all forms of unnatural, homosexual behavior; (2) it is a permanent union until the death of either spouse; (3) it is an exclusive union, so that extramarital acts are a violation of justice; and (4) its permanence and exclusiveness are guaranteed by contract; mere living together, without mutually binding themselves to do so, is concubinage and not marriage.
Christ elevated marriage to a sacrament of the New Law. Christian spouses signify and partake of the mystery of that unity and fruitful love which exists between Christ and his Church, helping each other to attain holiness in their married life and in the rearing and education of their children.
The Son of God declared that there is no power on Earth that can dissolve a valid marriage. It is only His church — the Catholic Church — that has continued to abide by His declaration. Except for Catholicism, there has never been a religion that has believed and taught that marriage is indissoluble.
One of the primary conflicts that arose between Rome and the Eastern Orthodox Church, which eventually resulted in the Eastern Orthodox Church’s separation from Rome, was the practice among the Eastern bishops of repeatedly granting “annulments” without justification.
Last week, while attending a local event, I ran into a woman who is a retired schoolteacher; I’m going to call her Jane (not her real name). Jane is a devout Catholic who was employed by the District 150 school system for more than 30 years. Prior to her retirement, she was a teacher at a local high school. A majority of her students were African American.
Jane started out our conversation by telling me that she had recently attended a funeral for a former student who had been shot by a member of a local gang. She went on to say that over the past four months she has attended funerals for three of her former students, all of whom were gunned down in the street at different times.
She then expressed outrage toward the Catholic Diocese of Peoria and Notre Dame High School for building a new $9 million sports complex in North Peoria. She talked about the “white flight” out of central Peoria and asked me, “How can they waste millions of dollars on a sports complex when that money could be used to benefit students who are truly in need?”
After asking the question, Jane stopped talking and glared at me, waiting for me to answer her question. I responded to her question with some questions of my own: Do you think things would change if the Diocese gave the money to the poor people or the schools in the south end of Peoria? Would that money have kept any of your former students from running with the wrong crowd and getting killed?
She fumbled around attempting to answer my questions. I explained to her that the problems we are facing in our society are much more complex than most people realize and cannot be corrected by throwing money at them.
I told her that, in my opinion, there are four primary factors that have contributed to the violence that is occurring in our community: (1) the complete breakdown of the family unit, (2) a public school system that is broken beyond repair, (3) the lack of good-paying blue-collar jobs, and (4) state and federal government politicians whose policies have accelerated the breakdown of the family, ruined our school system, and helped to drive jobs overseas.
Over the course of a year, researchers followed 159 patients who were involved in the Behavioral Health Partial Hospital Program. Participants were asked to rate on a five-point scale their belief in God and their expectations for treatment.
Levels of depression, well-being, and self-harm were measured at the beginning and end of the program, and researchers found that the patients who had disclosed that they had either “no” or only “slight” belief in God were twice as likely not to respond to treatment as the patients who had expressed higher levels of belief.
The study, which was published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, states, “Our work suggests that people with a moderate to high level of belief in a higher power do significantly better in short-term psychiatric treatment than those without, regardless of their affiliation.”
For those of us who believe in God, the results of the study are no surprise. Not only do we benefit from the healing grace we receive when we pray for assistance, we also benefit from the trust and confidence we have in God that He will assist us in our treatment and recovery.
I read through the comments that were posted under the article, and here’s a sampling of what some of the nonbelievers said:
• Replacing one mental illness with another is not a cure.
• Believing in Santa can bring you toys. Prayer is just another letter to Santa by another name.
• It’s good that believers can be saved from their depression. What do they take for their delusion?
• What rubbish! All it does is misguide the person who is depressed.