This is the time of year when many of you are celebrating holidays; spending time with family, friends and loved ones; bidding farewell to 2015; and looking forward to the New Year – 2016. A time when many of us pause to reflect on what has happened in the past year and wonder what the new year will bring. There are people who have touched us and some with whom we’ve gotten closer; some we have missed and many with whom we resolve to try and be better in the new year; and perhaps a few we might like to forget. We pause to remember those who are no longer with us and appreciate that by remembering them, we keep their spirit – all we have learned from them and all they have meant to us – alive. As 2015 comes to an end, we reflect on friendships and relationships, events and experiences. Many will use the opportunity to thank those who have helped us in tough times and those with whom we cherish sharing the good times.
For me it has always been a time to resolve to keep doing the good things I’ve done and to be better about trying to do those things I should have done. This time of year gives me an excuse to say thank you and express appreciation to everyone who has enriched my life. If you are reading this, you are part of my audience – part of the fabric of my professional life and, like the threads of that fabric, you have helped me weave the patterns and textures you read in these digital pages and the thoughts and sensitivities that become imprinted in my mind. I am grateful for your readership and in some cases, your friendship. I am always appreciative when you take a moment to read and perhaps gain some insight, while also being a little entertained.
So let me take this the opportunity to wish each of you, your families, friends, loved ones and yes, even an enemy or two, a beautiful and joyous holiday season and a healthy, happy new year, filled with wonder and magic, health and joy, challenge and opportunity, and prosperity and success. I especially want to thank a few people at Rimon like Kaitlin Southron, Lois Thomson and Rebecca Blaw who make this blog happen. These are the people you don’t see, but I do! They make Legal Bytes come alive. They are always amazing, consistently awesome and unbelievable under pressure. There are insufficient words to express my gratitude and appreciation – especially when they get my email that says “can we please post this ASAP.” Thank you. You make it look easy, you make me look good. I could not do this without you!
As many of you also know, for numerous years I have avoided sending out mass mailings of cards and gifts. Not only are they all too frequently lost in the seasonal flurry or delayed by the strain on delivery services, but the truth is most of us don’t really need or want the trinkets that never express the real sense of appreciation or gratitude we might feel for friends and colleagues, families and loved ones, wherever they may be. We might deceive ourselves into believing it “personalizes” the warmth of the season, but ultimately after a few weeks they go into a drawer or the trash bin. In reality, there is nothing really personal about that process. So I’ve borrowed a tradition I learned from an old friend years ago. Each year, I make a contribution to a charitable organization for all the family members, friends, loved ones, colleagues and acquaintances I want to honor; in memory of those I have lost this past year; and in recognition of those who have given me a reason to celebrate – in all, far too many to list and certainly all more deserving of something better than a card or bottle of wine. In that spirit, I have made donations to the Wounded Warrior Project and to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My way of trying to help those in need who might benefit from the warmth and kindness of a stranger or kindred spirit. Sometimes, random acts of generosity and kindness can bring surprising results –whether a smile, an unexpected warmth of spirit or simply knowing it’s not all that difficult to do something to help make the world a better place – even just a little. Try it sometime.
For loyal readers of Legal Bytes, you know this is also the time of year when I write a personal and philosophical Legal Bytes post. If ancient Babylonians, who celebrated the New Year upon seeing the first new moon after the vernal equinox, could start a tradition that lasted for about 4,000 years – the least I could do was to try to keep up. Although my tradition doesn’t date back nearly that far, this note contains no links to distract you. Nor will there be any citations to legal doctrine, references or background information. I won’t try to dazzle you with facts or intrigue you with today’s news. This is my opportunity to philosophize and dispense my thoughts and opinions – with absolutely no credentials, qualifications or expertise to do so.
As I reflect on the events of 2015, so much of the world is in turmoil and distress. There is still so much inhumane treatment of other living beings, warfare, poverty and hunger. There is still too much violence and intolerance. Too much benign neglect or indifference. Whether intentional or unwitting, active or passive, malicious or benign, there is still too much hatred taught to children around the world, too many acts of prejudice offered as an excuse for violence, and too many injustices used as justification for condoning inexcusable treatment of others. Actually, “too much” is probably an inappropriate term. If we can use a phrase such as “zero tolerance” for drunk driving, how can we not adopt the same standard for the way we need to treat each other. We seem to have forgotten – or we simply ignore – the value of diversity and tolerance. With more information at our fingertips than at any other time in history, it sometimes seems we have learned little from the past – or chosen to ignore it. So if you stop reading now, you might think this is an “all hope is lost” message. Please don’t stop reading. It’s not.
We all suffer adversity and yes, the world could and should be a better place. Legal professionals try to make the world better by respecting the rule of law and participating in systems we hope try to achieve some measure of justice. Medical professionals try to treat patients, find cures and rebuild broken bones and broken hearts. Musicians fill the world with joy. Authors and film-makers help us gain insight and entertain us along the way. Builders and plumbers and electricians give us comforts we might never know without their skills. Teachers illuminate the minds of young and old. Truth be told, there are more people doing good; more people helping others; more people trying to make the world a better place. But that doesn’t make headlines does it? Newspapers aren’t filled with stories of someone who gave a homeless man a few dollars to buy some soup yesterday. No one reports when someone gives an unemployed single mother a job. We don’t broadcast the fact that our police, fire fighters, armed forces and so many other public servants tirelessly risk their own lives and well-being every day, in order to serve us, often under difficult circumstances, sometimes at the expense of their own safety, and far too often, sadly, at the cost of their lives.
No, we aren’t perfect. But that isn’t a reason to give up, it’s a reason to try harder. Trite as it may sound, random acts of kindness do work. I believe we can make a difference by living our beliefs and passing them on to others, not only in words, but by example. Say hello to people passing in the street. Give something to that homeless person – yes, they may buy whiskey. But they also might buy some warm soup or socks and someday many of them may even turn their lives around and repay the kindness to others. Take a minute to help someone else who needs help. Smile at people for no reason – they may think you are strange, but it may be contagious. I know this isn’t as easy as it may sound and I am not as good as I should or could be either. But I hope to try harder and be better.
- I believe diversity allows us to see the wonders of others and appreciate how much we can learn from each other
- I believe tolerance allows us to accept others, celebrating their differences, rather than feeling hatred or seeking to change them to our ways
- I believe forgiveness is a choice and one we hope others will remember when the mistakes are ours
- I believe respect is an attitude, manifested by behavior that allows us to avoid doing harm and enables us to appreciate the values of others
- I believe we can imagine a better world and we can work to make it different, each in our own way
So pour yourself a glass of your favorite beverage, please sit back, put the distractions away for just a moment, click the image and imagine.
I want to wish family and friends, colleagues and acquaintances, clients and adversaries, those who know me well and those who don’t have a clue how or why they received this, a holiday season and year of joy, wonder, success and progress. May those who love you come closer and those who dislike you forget why. Most of all, I wish each of you the extraordinary gifts of health, happiness and peace. Warm regards for the holidays and best wishes for the new year.