WordPress.com Daily Prompt:
Where do your morals come from — your family? Your faith? Your philosophical worldview? How do you deal with those who don’t share them, or derive them from a different source?
“Here comes the only honest lawyer in Iowa!” It’s the greeting often heard in my dad’s presence.
Dad became a lawyer because he loved the law. He wasn’t motivated by money. He did a lot of pro bono work, and we were not wealthy.
After graduating near the top of his law class at the University of Iowa, he turned down job offers from “big city” law firms (“big city” being a relative term since we’re talking Iowa here). He wanted to be part of a community. He grew up in small town Iowa, and that’s where he settled.
He became a big fish in a little pond, not because he sought it out, but because civic-mindedness and “giving back” were part of his nature.
He was ethical to nth degree. He wasn’t a trial attorney by practice, but he wasn’t afraid to take on a case if necessary. My brother once asked him why he was defending a man who wasn’t particularly a friend. Dad answered, “Because he’s right.” I love that about him.
He was imminently fair, giving everyone the benefit of a doubt. He didn’t bow to peer pressure. He supported people’s rights even when it wasn’t the popular thing to do. He stood up for our minister, whom others wanted to punish for financial (but not illegal) reasons. He endorsed a black man who came to our all-white, all-Christian community to teach vocal music. Dad made the right call—not just because it was unbiased and correct. Turns out Mr. Jenkins was the very best vocal music teacher ever; and I was fortunate to be a part of his almost famous middle school choir patterned after the Vienna Boys Choir.
Dad never sat my brother and me down to explain explain his moral compass, it’s just something we picked up because we lived it every day.
Dad wasn’t always the easiest person to get along with (he drove my brother particularly hard), but he had many, many qualities I value. He was honest, he was tolerant of people from all walks of life. Regardless of a person’s race, religion, political leanings, whatever, he always viewed the person as an individual first. I inherited those traits, and would like to think I emulate them. At least I hope I do.
I wrote Dad a letter shortly before he died, telling him how much I admired and loved him. He never said anything about it, but when my brother and I were cleaning out his things after his death, there it was.