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The job never ends: A Christmas story

A couple of days before Christmas (“Christmas Eve’s Eve” as my boys’ affectionately call it), I was hanging around the office waiting to meet a couple of friends for an end-of-year dinner. As the last person in my office before a long extended weekend, I was essentially killing time before I have to leave. In my mind, it was time to close up shop for the holidays. With our office closed on Christmas Eve and with Christmas Day abutting the weekend, I had diligently gotten all of my work (both billable and non-billable) done and was looking forward to my dinner as the kickoff to the holidays.

Earlier in the week, as part of the MSBA’s Public Awareness Committees Adopt-A-Family Project, toys, clothes, and gift cards were delivered to the Y of Central Maryland for distribution to five families in Maryland. Four committees and the Young Lawyers Section gathered the gifts to ensure these families in need would be able to unwrap gifts in the coming days.

A surplus of toys and gifts were collected and remained at the MSBA. Unable to retrieve these gifts before the holiday and despite efforts to coordinate with a colleague to pick up the toys for delivery, I ultimately gave up on the task, believing that it would be too cumbersome to complete before the holidays.

“We can get the toys to a Y after the holidays,” I even said. “There’s nothing else we can do at this point. We’ve done enough and we got the gifts for the five families that we adopted.”

And I truly believed that it would not be a big deal.

As I was shutting shut down my computer, an email arrived from the coordinator of the Adopt-a-Family Program at the Y.

“You had mentioned you may have other toys available,” it read in part. “We just found a family that has nothing, not even a tree. Can you help?”

My heart sank. As I spent the last month ensuring that my boys’ Christmas wish lists would be substantially completed and had just been sitting in my office patting myself on the back for a job (and year) well done, I realized that, in many instances, the job is never done. So, after several emails and phone calls, we coordinated delivery of the gifts and toys to the needy family on Christmas Eve.

The following morning, I got an email from the MSBA administrator who assisted in the last-minute delivery:

You guys made my Christmas. The toys have been collected and I am beyond happy that they are going to a grandmother in the midst of her third battle with cancer who is raising her five grandchildren! This is what Christmas is! Blessing to all of you and thank you for allowing me to be part of this family’s Christmas miracle!

My heart sank again. But for my own actions, Christmas (or a least a part of it) was saved for this family. And Christmas was saved for me.

As attorneys, we can sit back and declare we have done enough because we have done our pro bono hours for the year. We can congratulate ourselves for a job well done in organizing a toy drive or Adopt-a-Family project. In the end, though there is still work to do and still people in need. And, in the end, we should do our best to remember that the call for pro bono or public service is never ending.

So call the Pro Bono Resource Center (410-837-9379) and take a case. Join the MSBA’s One Bar|One Community Project. Contact a legal service provider and volunteer (here are a few: Maryland Volunteer Lawyers Service, The Women’s Law Center of Maryland, and the Homeless Person’s Representation Project).

Because in the end, the only way for the job to end is if we all pitch in.