About ten days ago in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, there was a tragic apartment fire. Three small children died and the father of those children was severely injured. Three days after the fire, the grandfather – the father of the injured man – was killed in a horrific automobile accident on I-95. He was on his way to visit his son in the hospital. A few days after that, the son died as a result of his injuries in the fire.
Not surprisingly, the story was a big one with the local media. Of course, I was bothered by it – who could not be - but the impact was limited. It wasn’t like they were people I knew or even knew of. Then, a couple of days ago, I found out that the mother of those children and the fiancé of the man who died, was the person who delivered our local paper every day. She had done so for several years – and the paper was always there, never late. As the delivery is before 6:00 and the billing is centralized, it’s not surprising that I didn’t actually know her. I probably exchanged waves with her a few times when I was out early with my dog. I sent the standard Christmas tip to her. Still, I found that this limited but also very concrete connection unnerved me more than a bit.
Our law firm represents veterans and military families. Many of the veterans we represent have had personal struggles– some of them have been homeless or very near it. Even if they lived in Richmond, I would be less than honest to say that they would be part of the small world in which I live. In many respects, they might be very much like my paper carrier. Yet, we are all more connected than it might seem at first blush, and the death of my paper carrier’s family was a sharp reminder of this.
We try hard to treat our clients with respect. They deserve it. Veterans and military families may not be prominent or “cool.” They are, however, people who have made huge sacrifices for our society. In that sense, there is a “connection” to all of us that is quite real. They should never be people who really don’t matter to us, even if they are not part of our personal world. I hope I never forget that, and I will try very hard to make sure that those in our law firm don’t forget that either.