This past weekend I visited my home in central Pennsylvania and spent the whole day Saturday walking the streets and alleys of my childhood. Down Jones Street to Hickory and then over to the Junior High. Up to Curly's snack bar for a Coke. (Curly's still looked the same after 30 years). Down the double dips. Over to the Senior High through the Ho Chi Minh trail. Most of the trees of my childhood were gone. Replaced by ones with unfamiliar shapes and sizes casting unfamiliar shadows or blocking views I had enjoyed as a kid.
I was lucky to see friends this weekend - some I hadn't seen for 30 years. We talked about the struggles of life. Raising children. Making ends meet. We talked of the consequences from decisions we'd made so many years ago. I shook the hand of my good friend from high school, quite the basketball player then, but a farmer since. His hands were remarkably thick with muscle and callous from years working hard in the fields picking corn and strawberries.
On the plane home I finally understood I was harvesting the seeds I'd sown 30 years ago. I was among the privileged few. My life as a lawyer, particularly as a criminal defense lawyer, had been good to me. What other job I thought, besides soldiering, could I be called upon to exhibit courage and fight for the things I believed were right. What other job could I have that offered so much potential to affect the lives of individual people in profound and long lasting ways.
I saw my friends, and some family, still struggling to find meaning and satisfaction in their work. I saw them harvesting the seed they had sown - some for good and some for bad. The seed I'd sown had born much fruit in my life and the lives of people around me. My time back home gave me a perspective on this truth that I'd lost.
We lawyers complain about unfair judges, cheating prosecutors, ridiculous laws, and clients that mistreat us. We complain about other lawyers who get the business we think we deserve. We may secretly wish our colleagues will fail, thinking some how that will make us look better and get us a greater share of what we see as limited resources.
But we lawyers have it pretty good. We are among the privileged few who work in a field where we can make a difference in the lives of individuals. We may not change the world, but we can help change lives one person at a time. We must believe we can, however. Forget about the problems and concentrate on the people who look to us for help. Believe in them, care for them, and we can make a difference for them.
Gosh, it was a good visit home. I'm glad I've got my perspective back.