I have a love-hate relationship with the winter holidays. I love the colorful lights, the great food, and family get-togethers (yes, I really do like catching up with my big, flawed-but-fun, extended family). But I hate how busy and stressful the time can be. Don’t get me started on the mind-numbing Christmas music. Most of all, I hate the constant ads trying to convince us that buying stuff is the way to show our love and find happiness.
Sorry, but shopping is not the true meaning of the holidays. I was taught that the true meaning is love – and that we should express our love and our thankfulness for the love we receive by giving our time and resources to help people in need.
When I was a child, my church had a giving tree. Congregants could fulfill a Christmas wish (toy or clothing) for someone in need. My parents had us pick a “wish” and then used the money that would have been spent on a gift for us to donate a wish gift. I loved it. After my own children were born, we continued the tradition. My kids donate part of their Christmas gifts to help others. They give these things, because that is what they have to give.
As lawyers, we have so much more to give. Not only do we have greater resources, but we also have unique and important skills that we can donate to help improve access to justice.
This holiday season, I encourage all of you to try to avoid consumerism and instead focus on how you can give your time through pro bono legal work and your resources to organizations that help bridge the justice gap.
I understand time is precious, particularly during this part of the year. But, consider doing one of the following anyway:
Sign up with the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Pro Bono Directory to find a program that matches your interests and availability. Visit wisbar.org/probono.
Volunteer for one of Wisconsin’s many free civil legal service providers. A full list is available on the State Bar’s website.
Take a public defender appointment. Technically such work is not pro bono, but it is a public service, particularly in Wisconsin’s rural northern and western counties.
I was taught that the true meaning of the holidays is love – and that we should express our love and our thankfulness for the love we receive by giving our time and resources to help people in need.
You also can donate to a worthwhile organization in your or someone else’s name.
Wisconsin Law Foundation – The State Bar’s charitable organization promotes public understanding of the law, improvement of the administration of justice, and other law-related public service. Learn more at wisbar.org/wlf.
Wisconsin Trust Account Fund – The Wisconsin Supreme Court created WisTAF to help bridge the justice gap. WisTAF supports providers of free civil legal services across the state. Learn more at wistaf.org.
Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund – The Wisconsin Equal Justice Fund supports free civil legal services in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties through Wisconsin Judicare, Legal Action of Wisconsin, and Disability Rights Wisconsin. Learn more at e-justice.org.
However you decide to spend your time and resources this holiday season, I wish you and your family health and happiness during the holidays and throughout 2020.