As a practicing Catholic, Lent has always been a time for me to give up something. As a child, it was usually candy, dessert or some variation thereof. Many adults give up alcohol (St. Patrick’s Day excepted). A couple of years ago, Pope Francis’ message on Lent caught my eye. In his 2015 Lenten message, he challenged Catholics — and all Christians and non-Christians — not to give up things, but to give up the broader concept of human indifference. In his message, Pope Francis stated in part:
“Lent is a time of renewal for the whole Church, for each community and every believer. Above all it is a ‘time of grace’ (2 Cor 6:2). God does not ask of us anything that he himself has not first given us. ‘We love because he first has loved us’ (1 Jn 4:19). He is not aloof from us. Each one of us has a place in his heart. He knows us by name, he cares for us and he seeks us out whenever we turn away from him. He is interested in each of us; his love does not allow him to be indifferent to what happens to us. Usually, when we are healthy and comfortable, we forget about others (something God the Father never does): we are unconcerned with their problems, their sufferings and the injustices they endure … Our heart grows cold. As long as I am relatively healthy and comfortable, I don’t think about those less well off. Today, this selfish attitude of indifference has taken on global proportions, to the extent that we can speak of a globalization of indifference. It is a problem which we, as Christians, need to confront.”
The Pope’s message of giving up human indifference is not about giving anything up at all; rather, it is about actively helping those who need help. While the message is relatively simple, universal and straightforward, the execution of the message seems to be more difficult, especially for lawyers.
All of my colleagues, attorney friends, and opposing counsel appear to be extremely busy at all times. Many times, attorneys have a busy practice, are small business owners, and are also parents working hard to raise their children. There seems to be hardly any time to do anything else, let alone help those that need help the most. However, this is exactly what Pope Francis is asking people of all faiths to do.
I recently read with interest an article in the Indiana Lawyer entitled “Leap of Faith.” The article chronicled a group of Indianapolis lawyers — Joe Miller and Jacquelyn Pimentel-Gannon of Faegre Baker Daniels, Kelsey Raves with the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic, Carrie Lynn with Indiana Legal Services and Jason Reese of Wagner Reese LLP — who traveled to Rwanda to lead seminars and workshops designed to equip attorneys in Rwanda and neighboring countries with the skills and knowledge they need to fight on behalf of the poor in their countries. What struck me about the article was that each of these attorneys took so much time out of their busy practices and home lives to help attorneys in the poorest of poor countries.
While the mission trip to Rwanda highlighted in the Indiana Lawyer is undoubtedly a great example of attorneys taking the time to help others who are less fortunate, Hoosier attorneys are capable of giving up human indifference with a far smaller commitment of time and resources. Here are a few ideas:
Join the Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic;
Join the board of a nonprofit organization;
Volunteer for the Indianapolis Bar Association’s Ask a Lawyer program;
Join Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Central Indiana;
Get involved with a homeless shelter;
Get involved with a food pantry;
Get active in a mission program sponsored by your church, synagogue or mosque; or
Buy lunch for a homeless person (you can find one on almost every street corner of downtown Indianapolis).
In my mind, giving up human indifference requires only that people carve out some time to help those most in need of help. The message is simple, but as always, the devil is in the details. A famous saying which came to exemplify the Great Depression was, “Brother, can you spare a dime?” My question posed to Hoosier attorneys is, “Counsel, can you spare some time?”•
• James P. Strenski is a partner in the Indianapolis firm of Cantrell Strenski & Mehringer and a member of the DTCI board of directors. Opin-ions expressed in this article are those of the author.