Recently, I underwent unavoidable and unexpected back surgery. In less than 12 hours, I went from sitting in my office to sitting in the emergency room. I was admitted in the evening, and by the next morning, my whole world was upside down.
I called my wonderful assistant and she created a plan to take care of my clients. All went well, thanks to some very generous and caring friends. A judicial assistant took her time to alert specific court offices. One lawyer friend came to my office for the day and assisted clients. On many other days, that same friend attended my scheduled court appearances. A couple of other friends didn’t hesitate to assist with covering cases. One lawyer saw my name on a docket, called my assistant and covered that case for me. A Judge allowed me to attend a status hearing via conference call. During my recovery, I’ve had good and bad days. On a bad day, a simple Facebook message was all it took, for yet another friend to willingly handle a court hearing.
I was humbled and frankly surprised at how generous these folks were. Not that I didn’t think I had good friends, but I was and continue to be genuinely amazed at how willing so many were to interrupt their schedules for me.
I relayed this story to someone today and her response made me stop and think. She said you must have made an impact in these people’s lives for them to be so generous. And, here I just thought I had really nice people in my life and, I do – and they are. Yet, I believe something more was in play. These folks could have taken a more passive approach to helping me. They could have said, “I can’t make that court appearance, but I’ll be in the courthouse tomorrow – what can I do then?” No, these folks went out of their way, interrupted their schedules, and helped.
A while back, I represented a client who met with me a couple of times in my office on a minor criminal charge. He would always bring his girlfriend and their child. Their little boy was 2 years old and he was the most well-behaved toddler I have ever met. Living paycheck to paycheck, this couple struggles every day to survive. Yet, they never once complained about their circumstances to me. He worked construction when jobs were available, and she worked the only job she could find which was only part-time. She had dreams of going back to school. They were the nicest couple, and their young family was perfect. I teased them a couple of times about getting married. I encouraged the both of them to stay clean and out of trouble – as I do with every client! My client ultimately accepted responsibility for his charge. After I finished representation of him, he and his girlfriend called to thank me for my help. A year later, the girlfriend called my office needing assistance in a family court matter. I agreed to see them and waive my consultation fee. When they arrived, they brought clean drug screens, a new baby, reports of a better job, and the girlfriend was attending night classes. I was inspired by their resourcefulness, and honored that they actually brought me reports of clean drug screens! (not that these client’s had a drug problem – like I mentioned before, I tell all my clients to stay clean.) Silly, I know but really, who brings drug screens to their appointments? These folks made a huge impact on me. They remembered every word I said to them, and actually heard what I wanted for them. I wanted to help them, again. I wanted them to be rewarded in some way for all their progress. Not, that I am such a prize, but I knew that I could get a good outcome on the family court matter, and I wanted that to be the prize.
Ultimately, we were successful in court. My clients were grateful for the assistance and thanked me profusely. I thanked them as well. I realized by their puzzled faces that I needed to tell them why I was thanking them. I simply said, “for allowing me to help you.”
All this to say, I don’t know whether I have actually made an “impact” on the lives of my friends. But, I do know what it’s like to have to someone make an impact on my life. My friends make an impact on my life every day by unselfishly giving their time to me. And, that couple, well, they made an impact on me by being so gracious in the face of poverty. For showing me that happiness doesn’t equate to a paycheck; that well-mannered children don’t have to go to the best daycare; and, that loving couples don’t need to be married.
Impacting another’s life for good isn’t something I think people set out to do; however, I do think it’s purposeful. I believe you can practice it for yourself, teach it to your children, and set an example for others. I intend to practice impacting lives for good. I intend to be there when my friends need me – no matter my schedule, and I intend to continue to learn from my clients. And, the next time I gripe about my circumstances, I intend to be grateful because that’s how you make an impact.