Giving Back: The Fifth Factor

When we give of ourselves - our time, our talent, and sometimes if we are able, our own financial resources - the threads of our lives begin to weave together with the unique threads of the lives of others to create

I just returned from a weekend at my law school alma mater, where I had the chance to attend its annual Scholarship Brunch. The event pairs scholarship donors and recipients and affords both the opportunity to meet each other and connect.

As in past years, the program was inspiring, and both student speakers truly were outstanding. But a Native American student stood out.

Life had thrown everything at this young woman. One of seventeen children, as a child she had seen far too much poverty, substance abuse, and death. She had suffered mightily and, for a time, found herself spiraling downward.

Somehow she found strength in her own pain and in the story of the suffering of her people that gave her the power to overcome her circumstances. First came a GED, then a magna cum laude college degree, and she is soon to receive her Juris Doctorate.

It’s fairly rare to see a room full of lawyers cry, but listening to her story, they did.

She was there at the podium also, in part, because a law firm I used to work for and its generous partners had established a law school scholarship for Native American students. Years ago, when they created that scholarship, they never knew that, one day, their lives would intersect with hers and that they would become part of her journey and the lives of those she will impact as a lawyer.

When we give of ourselves – our time, our talent, and sometimes if we are able, our own financial resources – the threads of our lives begin to weave together with the unique threads of the lives of others to create the tapestry of our community.

I call that the Fifth Factor for success – Giving Back. Yes, there is ample scientific research about gratitude and the positive effects of altruism. Yes, there is also research that suggests lawyers who are connected are more satisfied and happy. For now, I will leave those discussions for future posts.

This past weekend reminded me again that, if you want to be happy and successful in law or in another chosen career, and stronger in your own life, give of freely yourself according to your own, unique abilities. In the beginning, you may not know the people and threads that will intersect with your own, but you soon will. And our beautiful tapestry we will be stronger when you do.

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