Michael J. Hebenstreit: Life Rushing By

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IBA-hebenstreitLife moments. Some may be an accomplishment (winning a big trial), a disappointment, a funeral or a seemingly insignificant event. We all have them—some good, some not so good, but they are those events that for some reason stick with us for a lifetime. One of mine occurred about 20 years ago. I was accompanying my son on a Boy Scout camping trip and the other young Scouts kept addressing someone they called “Mr. Hebenstreit.” That had always been my Dad, but it dawned on me that even though I did not feel particularly old or grown up at that time, they were referring to me, not my dad. They reminded me that I was older than I thought. A real life moment.

This summer, we have just finished a marathon of five weddings on five consecutive weekends. They took us to Hilton Head Island, Peoria, Oxford, Ohio and two were actually here in Indy. Although they certainly dominated our social calendar, all were quite fun. Four of them involved the weddings of children of our good friends and two involved “kids” who were also very close friends of our children.

The final wedding was for the daughter of my law partner, Greg Zubek. Mollie and our youngest son met in pre-kindergarten and have been close friends ever since. In fact, it was probably their friendship that encouraged the conversations between Greg and me that lead to our practicing together.

As I watched all of these young men and women walk down the aisle to begin the new chapter of their lives, I was stuck with the thought that an entire lifetime had passed in front of my eyes. We have known the parents for decades and watched those “children” grow up through various school events, sports, school troubles and successes, and vacations and have been a part of their lives. Now each was heading out and forging new lives. We enjoyed seeing our friends and being a part of this new experience for their children. It was a life moment that was about life passages.

Weddings and funerals are two life moments that create unique challenges and opportunities. How much does it really mean for the person or family to see you at the wedding or attend the funeral? It is easy to diminish the importance and find excuses for not making the effort. We all are busy and have too much to do already. The importance of reaching out to friends really hit home at Mollie’s wedding. Our son had debated if it made sense to fly in from LA just for the weekend when he knew he really would not have much of a chance to actually talk with the bride. When Mollie saw Kyle in the church, she actually started crying. That simple moment was worth a king’s ransom. Like most folks these days, they stay in touch by Facebook and the other forms of social media, but that face to face interaction obviously meant so much. A real life moment.

Every legal publication we pick up these days has at least one article about life / work / career balance. How do we juggle home life, career, the practice, the family and still make it all work for us. Why is it important? I really don’t think my parents devoted any time thinking about their life/work balance. They were too concerned about raising four children, paying the bills and getting all of us educated to have time to worry about their own happiness.

Recently, I have spoken with age contemporaries in bigger firms who have commented that they are confounded by the perceived lack of work ethic in the young associates in their firms. Many are nowhere to be seen after 5:00 PM. Perhaps they are working from home remotely after they put the children to bed, perhaps not. There is nothing wrong with hard work. After all, that is the foundation upon which our society has been built and supported. Virtually anything worth accomplishing comes as a result of hard work. It is a necessary part of our lives. But along with that hard work comes the challenge of creating positive life moments. Through all of these weddings, it has become very clear to me that it is critical to not only develop friendships, but to maintain them throughout your life. It enriches life, gives it special meaning and puts everything in perspective. Work hard, play hard, but don’t forget to make time for friends.•


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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.