It what seems almost a different lifetime – I was once a law student up @ Syracuse University College of Law. Yeah – don’t hold that against me (that I am a lawyer) – and please share any lawyer jokes you have – because I really like lawyer jokes!
Well anyways, while I was there I began to really wonder why I was in law school. I had made the decision to attend law school without having had a lot of exposure to lawyers or judges and seemingly by my desire to just stay in school more than anything else.
By my second year of law school I was pretty sure I didn’t want to practice law in any traditional sense of the word. I had a couple of housemates while I was there and one was a landscape architect student @ the SUNY College of Environmental Science & Forestry. He, in similar fashion, was going to school for a degree in landscape architecture – but didn’t think he wanted to have a career as a landscape architect. So we would sit around at the apartment sometimes and lament our respective situations.
During my second year in law school I was also working at the criminal law clinic. I say working – but make no mistake – I was not getting paid anything for my work. Rather I was actually paying tuition to be working there! Regardless, we represented the indigent of our community that faced misdemeanor criminal charges. Everything we did was under the supervision of a practicing attorney.
Many of the people we represented we’re from the South Salina Street area of Syracuse. A poorer section of the city for sure. One day when I was meeting with some of my “clients” and they were detailing to me their situation, (criminal charges they were facing, their family finances, etc…) I suddenly realized (epiphany – light on!) just how utterly embarrassed I would be if they knew how I had the audacity to complain about my situation when I was back at home. I looked at myself through their eyes – this young guy in law school with a bright future ahead of him – and the thought of him (me) complaining about his/my situation was absolutely repulsive.
When I went home that day I was a changed man. I told my fellow housemate about my experience and sudden insight. I told him how foolish and embarrassed it made me feel, and that I now realized how truly blessed I have been. I further told him that if we needed to see some people who had something to complain about we could head on down to South Salina Street and find plenty of people that DID have something to complain about.
From that day forward – when either one of us found the other complaining about something in our lives we reminded the other about the people down around South Salina Street that had something to complain about – because we certainly didn’t. Even now, I refer back to that day and epiphany. I use it to keep myself in check and help foster an attitude of gratitude in my heart…. and remind me to humbly offer a
helping hand to others who are in need.
I have already conveyed this story to my kids and continue to use it to help them gain some perspective. It reminds us all to count our blessings rather then the challenges in our lives. Are there days when you need to make a visit to a South Salina Street near you?
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