Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had an urge to advocate for other people. It’s not been an easy road – it’s not always popular to stick up for someone, especially if they are disadvantaged. But it has been immeasurably worthwhile, and I feel like, for the first time, I’ve really been rewarded in my work life.
You see, I’m honored to have recently been selected as a Shareholder with Hickman & Lowder Co., L.P.A. Hickman & Lowder is a firm that, years ago, I modeled my work after. At one point, I even dreamed of having a firm as reputable as Hickman & Lowder, doing good work advocating for seniors and people with disabilities and their families. Now, as a co-owner, I will be able to continue that work and be part of the firm for hopefully many years to come.
My urge to advocate came from some challenges I faced as a child. When I was an infant, it became apparent that I had visual problems. As a child in school, I had a very difficult time learning to read. I even remember telling my mother in first grade that if I didn’t need to learn how to read, I would just go to California. (I never moved to California, but instead married my wife, Carolyn, who lived there for almost a decade).
My early school years were often spent with an eye patch on one eye and very big glasses. I stood out. At times, I was the focus of ridicule and name calling of words that I won’t repeat. Something inside of me didn’t let myself give up. Instead, it gave me a sense of the injustice people face just for being different.
I haven’t shared much about this much even to this day. Who wants other lawyers to know that I read more slowly than most of them or that sometimes I can be looking at a piece of paper and not really processing the images the same way as they are? (Any of you reading this who have pointed at a computer screen and said to me “It’s right there!” may have known this.)
But, there are some advantages to a hidden disability. With modern glasses, I don’t stand out. I change to my reading glasses without people knowing there is a vastly different prescription with prisms to help my eyes see together. It also helps that I’m getting a bit older now, so people don’t really question that I change glasses frequently. My wife knows on those very rare days when I forget my special glasses that I’m either coming home or begging her and our daughter, Marielle, a three-year-old, to drop everything and bring them downtown so that I can read.
Over the years, after serving as a legal aid attorney and disability rights attorney, and then in private practice, I have built up my skills. I have developed a broad understanding of systems and rights and people’s special needs. I have also had some big successes. And with some specialized eye care, deep work in understanding myself and receiving holistic healthcare, and opening up to the power of meditation and relaxation, and importantly prayer, I have learned that I am an effective advocate who just happens to have different vision.
Now, I feel like others are seeing the same thing. Apparently, my fellow co-owners of Hickman Lowder, who voted unanimously for me to join them, saw it. Thank you, Frank, Janet, Elena & Dave – I’m honored to bring my vision to join you and continue to the heartfelt mission of Hickman & Lowder!