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Look Outside Yourself to Offer Someone Hope

July 5, 2007

[This appeared in the July 2007 Philadelphia Bar Reporter].

I remember standing in my garden, gazing at the moon. It was a full moon, and there was not a cloud in the sky. I was five years old.

“Do you see the old man and the bunny rabbit?” my grandmother asked, pointing at the bright moon. “Once upon a time, there lived in a forest a rabbit, a monkey, and a fox. The old man of the moon saw them and wanted to reward the kindest one. So he came down to earth and pretended to be a beggar. The rabbit, the monkey, and the fox all felt very sorry for the old man. So, the monkey gave him some fruits. The fox gave him a fish. But the rabbit didn’t have anything to give him; so, he made a fire and got ready to jump in there so that the old man could eat him. Then, the old man asked the rabbit to live in the moon with him. And the rabbit said yes, and he was never hungry again because there are lots of mooncakes up there.”

“Grandma. I see them! I see the old man and the bunny rabbit. The old man has a hunch back. And the rabbit looks really happy standing next to him,” I responded.

“Well, little missy. The bunny rabbit has sent you a mooncake – and I have it right here,” my grandmother said. She handed me a mooncake – a type of pastry with rich, dense red bean paste filling and a sort of flaky crust.

It was delicious.

“When you grow up, I want you to be kind to others so you can eat all the mooncakes you want, okay?” my grandmother said.

I am grown up now. And I do feel like I am kind to others, but not because I want to eat all the mooncakes. I am kind to them because my grandmother was a kind person and she taught me the importance of looking outside myself once in a while.

I know it sounds corny, but that’s one of the reasons I became involved with the YLD. I know I have made someone’s day when I provide free legal advice to him or her over the telephone for Legal Line. I know I am offering hope to someone when I act as a judge in high school mock trial competitions or when I serve as a mentor to a law student. I know I am leaving footprints in the sands of time when I participate in People’s Law School, a six-week education course that offers non-lawyers basic information about areas of the law that affect their daily lives.

As young lawyers, we are fortunate because we have so many opportunities to give our time and talents in ways that enrich the lives of others. We have the ability to leave the world a bit better when we participate in Law Week, People’s Law School, or Legal Education and Mentoring programs. We have a chance to fight for a cause larger than ourselves when we go to a charity event to benefit the Philadelphia Bar Foundation, which mission is to promote access to justice for all the people in the community, particularly those struggling with poverty, abuse and discrimination. We have the opportunity to light another person’s darkened path when we take on a pro bono case.

Once in a while, when the moon is full and bright, I try to picture a rabbit up there with an old man. I can’t quite make out the old man, but sometimes, I can see the rabbit. And he still looks very happy. It must be the mooncakes!

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