Yesterday, I and more than two dozen of the finest lawyers in South Florida (if not the Southeastern United States), spent more than two hours in a hearing at the Dade County Courthouse. I wish I could say we were debating and came up with some creative suggestions for solving issues critical to world peace, but that was hardly the case. Instead, the bulk of our time was spent arguing over the logistics associated with identifying and implementing a procedure for “efficiently” managing and resolving a back log of cases – some of which were filed nearly a decade ago! Would that I could say I’m making this up; unfortunately, I’m not. I don’t offer this story for the purpose of singling out, let alone “dumping on,” my profession. God knows, lawyers get a bad enough (and seldom well-deserved) rap without my participating in the feeding frenzy. Moreover, I’m quite certain there were tens of thousands of equally long-winded and similarly unproductive “non-legal” conference calls, board and other meetings, etc. occurring all around the country and the world at precisely the same time and throughout the day.
No, I offer this reflection for other reasons: 1. Neither I, nor any other lawyer in that courtroom, will get those 2+ hours of our lives back – they are gone forever. 2. The amount of money expended in having that many lawyers in that courtroom for that amount of time likely would have been enough to provide 2 months of care and treatment to a young woman, who otherwise may die as the result of medical complications associated with an eating disorder, due to her inability and the inability of her family to afford that care. 3. Setting aside the financial piece for a moment, it occurred to me that, properly directed, the individual and collective “human capital” in that courtroom (i.e., the intellect, creativity, political and corporate connectivity, organizational and advocacy skills, etc.) has almost limitless potential to effect social change, bring hope to those who have none and facilitate healing in an ever-growing population of people in need. This is not about politics. It’s about LIFE. It’s about caring for someone other than ourselves. It’s about our moral obligation as human beings.
Simply put, I fear we’re losing sight of why we exist. Don’t misunderstand me. I value my job and am proud to be part of a profession whose members have contributed (and continue to contribute) so much to establishing, promoting and preserving social order, while, at the same time, working diligently to protect and enforce the civil and criminal rights of those they serve. I also understand the importance of work generally (I’ve been doing it since I was 13 years old) and the fact that, from time to time, all of us are called upon to perform tasks in our jobs, which, viewed in a vacuum, seem to be menial in nature, if not a complete waste of time, but which often are no less essential to the accomplishment of the bigger task at hand. More importantly, I appreciate (perhaps slightly more than most) the fact that: (1) there are only so many hours in the day; (2) the familial, work and social demands on those hours are great; (3) our physical and emotional resources are finite; and (4) each of us needs to find time for ourselves – to reflect, to rest and to replenish.
But, the reality is: There are SO many hours in a day and there is SO much need. That being the case, those of us who have been blessed with so much (e.g., a good education, a well-trained mind, wisdom borne of life experience and, in those of faith, Divine guidance, the mentoring of others, etc.) simply can’t afford to use our “busyness” as an excuse for not at least trying to make a difference, for continuing to stand on the sidelines and pretending that, unless the need is sitting in our living rooms, it’s someone else’s problem. Don’t believe you have the power to effect meaningful and profound change in the world, to change or save a life – perhaps even a few thousand? Then please take a few minutes (okay, so maybe it’s 19 minutes – I promise it will be well worth your while!) to disavow yourself of that misperception – and then consider spending a few more (after all, you have 1,440 of them today alone!) reflecting on where you see a need that you either are (or could easily become) passionate about and consider talking the next step. It quite literally could make all the difference in the world.