I propose a controversial celebration of Pro Bono Week. Let’s not focus on the negative statistics of the yawning gap in unmet legal services. Let’s not dwell on the lack of access to our legal and judicial systems that, in the words of Illinois State Bar Association President John Theis, makes the promise of “justice for all” an empty promise for so many here in the greatest democracy on earth. It’s just too depressing. Let’s stop wringing our hands in despair. No more finger-wagging exhortations about our responsibility to reach out and donate our time, talent, or treasure in pro bono publico service. All this is true enough; and here’s a motivational twist: do it for yourself!
I thought about this in reflecting on the last conversation I had with my Aunt Betty before she passed on. Her 86-year-old eyes glittered with fire and purpose as she relayed how she ended up leaving her five young kids with a babysitter and flying to Selma, Alabama in March 1965. She was a young mother living in suburban Detroit when she received a phone call from her news reporter husband who was in Selma covering the marchers demonstrating for voting rights. He told her she had to come down there and join him. “Oh Bob, what can I, a white suburban mother of five small children do for the marchers?” she recalled asking. His response was, “Betty, you need to come down here, not for what you can do for them, but for what they will do for you.” She did. And that is how a life became ignited with activism and meaning.
Transformative opportunities are abundantly available on our website and many others. Here’s hoping you seize the opportunity to serve and get rewarded with a “this is why I went into the law” experience.