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.
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).
If you’ve ever been to Disney World, you may have noticed that all the rides have one thing in common. At the end of each ride, there is no way for you to immediately get back into the open, where you’re allowed to roam around and look for another ride. Before you can do that, you have to walk through a gift shop. The end of each ride is set up so that you are forced to exit into a gift shop.
Disney does a masterful job of controlling the flow of its customers, who are forced to walk past merchandise that is related to the ride they exited from. At every opportunity, Disney tempts and entices its customers to purchase items for themselves and their loved ones. Of all the businesses in the world, Disney is the best at extracting large amounts of money from people.
But Disney isn’t the only company that has the money game figured out. If you’ve ever been in a casino, you know that if you have to go to the restroom, there’s no easy way to get there. Instead of taking a direct route to the restroom, you have no other choice but to walk through a maze of slot machines, video poker machines, and other gaming devices.
Like Disney, the casino owners know that people can be tempted to take part in one more money-extracting event before proceeding to their final destination.
It’s no secret that people can easily be distracted and their attention diverted so they can engage in an activity that they believe will be more enjoyable and pleasurable than what they are doing at the moment.
Some of the highest paid professionals in the United States are the men and women who write advertisements and sales letters for the top companies in the world. These professionals are called “copywriters” and they are experts on human nature and the psychology behind why people buy.
With one compelling headline and sub-headline, a good copywriter can figuratively grab people by the collar and pull them into an advertisement or sales letter and then convince them to buy a product or a service that they may not actually need.
Can you imagine how Saint Joseph felt when he was unable to find a suitable place for his wife to give birth to her child? How would you feel if your wife was about to give birth and the best you could do for her was a barn full of animals?
For Saint Joseph, this had to be the most humiliating experience of his life. Did he get angry? Did he become defiant and lash out at God? Did he blame the government? Or did he simply accept what had happened to him as being a part of God’s plan for him.
Now imagine that you are the Blessed Virgin Mary. Your divine son is 12 years old. As you do every year, you travel with your husband and son to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover. When it’s time to begin your journey to return to Nazareth, you follow the custom of splitting up. You travel with the women while your husband travels with the men. Both of you assume that your son is traveling with the other person.
On the evening of the first day of your journey, you reunite with your husband and you find out that your son is missing. You don’t know if he is alive or dead. You remember that after your son was born, Herod ordered his army to find and kill him. At your son’s presentation, Simeon warned you that a sword would someday pierce your heart.
You and your husband frantically search for Jesus. Your suffering is so intense that you refuse to stop and rest. After three days, you finally find him in a temple, sitting among some teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
For the Mother of God, the loss of her son had to be the most humiliating experience of her life. What mother would be so careless that she would lose her son? Did she get angry? Did she become defiant and lash out at God? Did she blame the custom that she was bound to follow? Did she blame her husband? Or did she simply accept what happened as being a part of God’s plan for her and her family.
The Young Messiah has received mixed reviews and is based on a fictional story about the childhood of Jesus Christ. The movie begins when Jesus is seven years old. He is starting to realize that He has supernatural powers. His parents struggle with when and how they are going to tell Him the truth about who He really is.
The only facts that we know about Jesus during the first 29 years of His life are the events surrounding His birth, His presentation in the temple as an infant, and when His parents lost track of him for three days when He was 12 years old. The life of Jesus as portrayed in The Young Messiah may be a nice story, but it’s completely fictional.
Let’s take a look at the real childhood of our Lord, starting with what St. Luke wrote:
Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was 12 years old, they went up according to festival custom. After they had completed its days, as they were returning, the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Thinking that he was in the caravan, they journeyed for a day and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances, but not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great sorrow.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I would be in my father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Luke 2:41-50
I’ve written before about the first time I went Christmas shopping alone with my mom. It was in 1969, when I was 12 years old. At that time, my parents had 13 children — seven boys and six girls — all of whom were living at home.
One of the things I remember about that trip was the huge buildings downtown, all of which had big, heavy entrance doors. I remember the entrance doors because it was on that trip that my mom taught me what I had to do if I was ever going to become a real “gentleman.”
When I walked into the first store ahead of my mom, she stopped me and told me that a gentleman always opened the door for a woman, so the woman could enter first. So there I was, 12 years old, struggling to maneuver the heavy doors on the huge buildings so my mom could walk into the stores ahead of me.
Mom also taught me that whenever I was walking with a woman on a sidewalk that bordered a street, as a gentleman, I was expected to walk on the curbside of the sidewalk (between the woman and the cars that were driving by). Her explanation for this was that it was s man’s duty to act as a buffer between the traffic and the woman he was with, which protected the woman from being splashed by cars driving through puddles, and from being hit by any cars that might jump the curb and come onto the sidewalk.
In addition to opening doors and protecting a woman based on where I was walking, Mom insisted that I treat her and my sisters with a higher level of respect than what was expected of me when I was dealing with my brothers. She taught me that I had an obligation to behave differently toward women than I behaved toward my brothers. She also taught my sisters that if they expected to be treated with respect, they had to behave in such a way that they telegraphed to men that they deserved their respect.
During the first three years of my law practice (1983 to 1986), I rented an office from some other attorneys. In addition to the use of an office, I was allowed to use the other attorneys’ receptionist to answer a separate telephone line that I had set up in the reception area. My agreement also included an arrangement in which I was able to use one of the secretaries to prepare legal documents. She kept track of the time she spent doing my work, and I paid an agreed-upon hourly rate to the attorneys for her services.
I moved out of the attorneys’ office and rented my own small office suite in the fall of 1986. At that time, I hired my own part-time secretary. About a year later, my part-time secretary started working for me on a full-time basis.
Because I was responsible for paying for my own office, a full-time secretary, and other office-related expenses, I quickly fell behind on my bills. After struggling financially for several months, I began a 30-day novena to St. Joseph. During the novena, I asked St. Joseph to increase my business so I could get caught up on my bills.
Shortly after I finished the novena, I received a telephone call from a local banker whom I had previously assisted with some legal work. The work I had done for him involved collecting money from bank customers who were behind in their credit card payments.
When I got on the phone with the banker, he told me that he had recently been hired by another bank and was in charge of refinancing previous home loans and loaning money to first-time home buyers.
The banker asked if I had ever considered performing title searches and issuing title insurance policies through Attorneys’ Title Guaranty Fund. I told him that I was familiar with Attorneys’ Title, but had never given any serious thought to getting involved with that type of work.
On a Friday evening in June 1977, while I was in the family room of my parents’ home, the evening news came on the television. The news opened with a teaser announcement about a movie that had recently been released that was surprising all of the critics and was wildly popular among viewers. Of course, if we wanted to know what that movie was, we had to sit through 20 minutes of the news before the newscaster would tell us about the movie.
At that time, I was 20 years old and had recently finished my second year in college. After the announcement about the new movie, one of my younger brothers asked me if I knew what movie the announcer was talking about. I told him that I had no idea. My brother asked, “Do you think it’s Rocky?” I replied that I did not think that it could be Rocky because although the movie about the rise of a small-time boxer was extremely popular, it had been released in late 1976 and had already run its course.
We hung around the family room and waited for the story about the movie. At that time there was no Internet so the only way to learn about newly released movies was from network television, the print media, or by word of mouth. It turned out that the movie was Star Wars, a science fiction film that had been released by 20th Century Fox on May 25, 1977. In addition to discussing the main characters, the news story also showed clips from the movie and talked about the popularity of the “droids,” C-3PO and R2-D2.
Within a week of seeing the story about Star Wars, I went to the theater to see the movie with a couple of my friends. At one point in the movie, to escape from enemy fire, the main characters, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Hans Solo, and Chewbacca, duck into a room-sized trash compactor. After discovering that they are trapped, the enemy activates the mechanical system that causes the walls of the compactor to close in on and crush all the trash that is in the compactor.
My mom was 19 years old when she married my dad. She was 20 when she had the first of her 17 children. Georgette and I were both 23 when we were married. We had the first of our seven children the following year.
I have two questions for you to consider:
1. When is the best time to get married?
2. When is the right time to have a baby?
In 1951, when my parents were married, the best time to get married was generally considered to be shortly after a person graduated from high school. When Georgette and I were married in 1980, the best time to get married was generally considered to be after a person graduated from college.
Today, in 2014, I’m not sure what the general consensus is concerning the best time to get married. For some couples, it’s after they have lived together for several years. For others, it’s after they have given themselves the opportunity to become established in their respective careers.
After a couple is married, when’s the “right time” to have a baby? I tell young couples that there’s never really a right time to have a baby, so they should get started as soon as possible after they are married. For most couples, there’s almost always a (seemingly) compelling reason to wait. They may believe that they need more time to grow together as a couple, or to get ahead financially, or to advance in their careers before taking on any new responsibilities.
What has complicated the decision-making process concerning marriage and children has been the widespread availability and use of modern-day contraceptives. What’s the hurry in getting married if a couple can enjoy the benefits of marriage without worrying about the consequences of a pregnancy? Why should they have a child during the first five years of marriage when they can use contraceptives to delay pregnancy? And after they finally get around to having two or three children, why should they subject themselves to more risks and responsibilities by having more children?
Advent is now upon us. What is Advent? It’s a time of waiting, a time of preparation — spiritual preparation for the anniversary of the coming of Jesus Christ. Instead of making spiritual preparations during Advent, many of us get caught up in the demands of everyday living. Any extra time that we have is spent on the material preparations that have become an annual tradition, such as buying gifts, decorating our homes and work areas, planning parties, and baking treats.
In an effort to make it easier for people to make the necessary spiritual preparations for Christmas, I’m providing a short meditation for each day of Advent. Please take the time each day to read the meditation that is set aside for that particular day. Try to incorporate the message of each meditation into your daily activities. By doing this, you will be better able to appreciate the full meaning of Advent and prepare for Christmas Day.
Sunday, December 1, 2013 – Have you set any spiritual goals for Advent? You say you don’t have time? Then how do you find the time to set and accomplish your material goals, such as buying gifts, decorating your home, planning parties, and baking treats? Take the time now to write down one spiritual goal for Advent (e.g., an extra daily prayer, a daily sacrifice, daily spiritual reading, etc.). Then make a commitment to God to accomplish your goal.
Monday, December 2, 2013 – “Thou shalt conceive in thy womb and shalt bring forth a son, Jesus.” He was there, hidden in Mary’s womb. He is here, hidden in the tabernacle of our church. Will Jesus be lonely this Christmas season? Are you willing to visit Him regularly during Advent so you can better understand the true meaning of Christmas? He is waiting. He is always there.