I recently heard a story about a wise old man, a young boy and little bird that I thought was very insightful. Since it was my first encounter with the story, I did what comes natural these days and Googled the title to see if the story has been told before or whether this was an original piece. Not surprisingly, the story has been passed down over the years and told in many different variations. Taking that as a license to re-tell the story for myself, here is my version and reflections of this timeless story:
As a practicing lawyer for over 25 years, it is fair to say I have seen life from many different vantage points. In fact, it is the thing I love most about being a lawyer – I get to know and understand a client’s problem or challenge from the client’s perspective and see the world through their eyes. On TV lawyers are about the dramatics of the courtroom and withering cross-examinations, but in the real world, most lawyers are down in the trenches alongside their clients trying to navigate a foreign terrain and solve emotionally charged problems. Hopefully I have been helpful to many of my clients, but on the flip side of things, I have learned a great deal about life from my clients.
You could see the anguish in his eyes. I just met this fellow (not a client) but it was apparent he was struggling to keep it together. “What’s wrong my friend” I asked? “Oh, it’s a personal thing I am dealing with,” he replied. “I need to see my attorney this afternoon and sign some papers. My wife and I are going through a nasty divorce and we are scheduled to be in court next week. There are so many issues – custody, child support and financial stuff and fighting over who gets what. It’s just a mess.” Not wanting to pry too much I asked whether he and his wife are close to resolving things and whether he had thought about mediation as a way of addressing the issues. “No” he said, “we are way beyond anything like that. Like I said, it is pretty ugly.”
I see the following scenario (or versions of it) quite a bit in my law practice. It goes something like this:
Son: What – are you blind? Can’t you see that mom needs to go into a nursing home?
Daughter: No she doesn’t! All she needs is some help. She’s fine staying in her home.
Son: She can’t even take care of herself or go to the bathroom without someone standing right over her. Come on, get with the program.
Daughter: We can get an aide to come in and help and we can take turns with grocery shopping and laundry and whatever else needs to get done.
When asked – what day it is? Sam froze like a deer in headlights. At age 89 he thought he was doing just fine and was able to answer the first few questions okay, but that “day” question – boy that was a doozy. He couldn’t quite get the month and year right and he was a few Presidents behind, but knowing that he wanted to live in his own home and be independent – that he was unequivocal about.