I recently visited Atlanta, GA. and visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. This museum is dedicated to the achievements and ongoing challenges for the U.S. and the world civil rights movement.
I learned about the Gini index. It measures the income inequality around the world, the gap between rich and poor. The United States fairs quite badly. Did you know that the 400 richest people in the United State have more wealth that the bottom 150 million people put together (there are 329 million people in the U.S)?
I often tell my three sons (I only have sons) how lucky we are. We had parents who were educated and who stressed the importance of continuing education. We lived in safe neighborhoods and we felt safe. We grew up in a community of similarly educated and motivated people. If life were a baseball game, me and my sons were born standing on second base with no outs and the best hitter coming to the plate – it would be a disappointment if we didn’t score! Most people don’t have this luck.
I am publishing this Blog article on my 55th birthday. I have worked hard and tried to live the correct way, in the hope that I would fulfill the expectation that I would get home from second base and score. My parents always said that, in America, if you work hard, you can achieve anything. It turns out this is true for children who were born in the fortunate circumstances in which I was born. But for the children born of families in poverty, hard work alone just simply is not enough. There are many talented children living in poor families who will never get the chances I did. Sticking with the baseball analogy, these children are at the plate with two strikes, two outs and no one on base. For these kids to score is a far greater accomplishment than anything I could ever do.
Recognizing my good fortune, I have tried to pay back the community by volunteering my time, money and effort for specific people in need such as for victims of domestic violence, brain injury survivors, and the poor of Philadelphia – the city that I love.
As some may know, I am a Board Member and active volunteer for Philadelphia Volunteers for the Indigent Program (Philly VIP). This organization helps leverage the powerful resources of the Philadelphia legal community to provide quality volunteer legal services for low income Philadelphians to prevent homelessness, stabilize families, preserve income and promote community development. In honor of my 55th birthday, I have now pledged 1% of every dollar I earn representing my seriously injured clients to Philadelphia VIP.
Although Philadelphia itself is experiencing a population surge, an influx of construction and interesting new business, and its Center City is a vibrant mix of culture and cuisine, a significant share of its population, 400,000 people or 25%, live below the poverty line, which, for a family of 4, is a little less than $30,000 annually. These people have legal issues (estate issues, real estate issues, family law issues, litigation matters, etc.) and they cannot afford a lawyer to help. A legal issue that confronts an impoverished family may be the strikeout pitch that ends a child’s chance. VIP exists to ensure that a competent lawyer will be there to fight for that family at no cost.
I count my blessings every day. I am grateful to you, my clients, my friends and my family and I am also grateful for having the opportunity to pay back or perhaps Pay it Forward for simply being born one of the lucky ones.