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Legally Speaking


Issue: February, 2008
Author: Gay V. Woodhouse

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From the President . . .

Outward. So many attorneys know the importance of serving their communities. Many in our ranks serve tirelessly on the boards of non-profit entities that provide much needed services for our communities. Others serve in the legislature, as members of the local governing bodies, as public servants with local, state and national offices.

While I may be aware of some of the volunteer work and other services that you provide, I only hear about this work in passing. In order for us to know and to be able to inform others, I would like to have you tell us about the work that you do or tell us about someone else who is reticent to come forward. As we prepare for this year’s Law Day, May 1, 2008, we would like to have a series of press releases issued from the Bar highlighting the work of attorneys in their local communities.

It is true that to whom much has been given, much is expected and I personally believe that the attorneys I know are aware of this more than any other group of professionals. Attorneys seem to be aware that good things don’t happen in our communities without actual hands-on hard work and sweat. Attorneys are quick to volunteer when they see the need.

One of the most compelling of drives for every human is to be needed. To feel at the end of the day, that we have done something for someone else, that we have, in some small way made a difference in someone’s life. In order to find fulfillment in life, we need to get out of ourselves, those daily struggles that can consume our lives and get into helping someone else.

Last month I put my father in a nursing home. He has advancing Alzheimer’s and can no longer be cared for without 24-hour supervision. At lunch after he arrived, he was trying to make jokes and make the other residents at his table laugh, but they were simply not getting his humor. It was so typical of the way Dad has always been: jovial, engaging, friendly, always looking for a way to inject humor into a situation. My reaction was to laugh almost uncontrollably and then start sobbing. Fortunately, my dad didn’t notice. Although there were a lot of things going through my head and my heart through that experience, I think one of them was just that my father who had always been so strong and competent and optimistic would now be with 14 other people who appeared that day to be only marginally aware of what was going on around them. By the next day, I had learned the names of the other people and begun to learn about their personalities. One thing I found was that every one of them responded well and positively to interaction including playing cards and sometimes even dancing. I find now that my life is richer for getting to know these wonderful people. I see that I can add something to their lives on a daily basis as I visit my dad.

These kinds of opportunities are with us daily. We may volunteer on boards or committees, but we also have the chance to serve by allowing someone to cut in front of us in the line at the grocery store, or allowing someone to get out of a tough parking space, or just slowing down and looking for places to serve, places to help. We have the opportunity on a daily basis to live the answer to the questions, “What can I do?” “How can I help?” “How can I serve?”

I know that many of us have aged parents, relatives or friends who need our visits and our attention. I will admit that until it happened to me, I was largely oblivious to what was happening with my peers in this regard. When a friend or acquaintance would tell of visiting a parent in a nursing home and I might say, “Oh, that’s too bad,” but I really did not understand the incredible impact it has on the family. I apologize for my lack of appreciation for what they were going through.

But I digress, the point of this article is really to encourage you to submit something to Sharon Wilkinson at swilkinson@wyomingbar.org about your own or someone else’s volunteer work, so we can let people in the general public know how we serve in our communities in big and little ways. And truthfully, there are no “little” ways. All service is big.

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