I have two sons. My oldest is six and he is in elementary school. When I see him with his friends on the playground, I am reminded of how difficult it is to be a child, any child, and trying to find your place in the world. There’s a lot to learn. When I was a child in elementary school, kids seemed to belong to very distinct groups and, at times, I didn’t fit in with any of them.
My father was an interesting and sometimes confounding role model. He seemed to be someone who had found his place in the world and had done so early. He was never out of place. He did not seem to suffer from the least bit of self-consciousness. Ever. He was an accountant and a partner at a large firm. He could talk with anyone about anything. I had seen my father begin conversations standing in line for coffee or at the grocery store. He could talk about the weather, politics, sports, traffic, cars, money, economics, dance and more. Sometimes, he spoke in a loud voice in very quiet places. He told weird jokes. What I noticed most often was that people responded well to him. As a child I found this astounding. There were times when I felt embarrassed by his behavior in a way that all children, at a certain age, are completely and unjustly horrified by their parents.
When I was in fourth grade, my father came to my class for career day. He was coming to talk to ten year-olds about accounting. In fourth grade, I knew very little about accounting other than it had to do with numbers. Also, I suspected it wasn’t a scintillating topic. Worse, my father’s appearance had been preceded by the teacher’s nephew, a NAVY jet pilot, who had spoken the week prior. Anyone would have found that a hard act to follow.
On the day of his talk, my father barreled into class and sat on the teacher’s desk. He was beaming. As our teacher introduced him as my dad, I sank a little lower in my seat.
He began by discussing Al Capone, the notorious mobster. He noted that after many failed efforts by the police and the FBI to prosecute Capone, it was ultimately a group of accountants who brought him down – for tax evasion. He talked about his work and how he was an adviser to individuals, companies and governments – some of them quite local, and included the towns where my classmates played soccer and baseball. He was riveting. At the end of class the teacher asked who wanted to be accountants when they grew up and, both surprisingly and not, several kids raised their hands.
I wasn’t one of them. When the teacher asked me directly what I wanted to be when I grew up I said I didn’t know. I needed more time to figure it out. But, in that moment, what I learned from my father was that there were many paths to becoming who you would ultimately be. By his own happy admission, my father’s path was not a straight one but it was a successful one. In thirty minutes, thirty five years ago, he conveyed something that has stayed with me for my entire life. The answer wasn’t necessarily about finding what worked for everyone else. What mattered most was that you worked hard at something with which you could feel satisfied, whatever it might be. Be true to yourself, and in that way find delight in any number of things – apparently even in unappealing things such as accounting or standing in line for coffee. Then, you would find your place. That was what he did. That was something I could do.
These days I know who I am. Someday soon, I may have the privilege of speaking to my sons’ classes about my work. I can’t wait to give them a glimpse into what I do when I mysteriously leave the house in a suit every morning.
Happy Father’s Day.
-Adam Halper, Director of The Family Center’s Legal Wellness Institute
On Tuesday, April 18th, Family Center Attorney Lauren Groetch was recognized by New York Nonprofit Media (NYN Media) for the outstanding legal counsel and representation that she provides to NYC residents through our Legal Wellness Institute. NYN Media inducted Lauren into their 2017 Front Line Heroes class, and The Family Center could not be prouder of Lauren and this acknowledgement of her dedication, commitment and hard work! As part of the awards ceremony, NYN Media produces a program with honorees’ bios and answers to questions that reveal their value to NYC residents and communities. Below is the program excerpt that featured Lauren.
Lauren Groetch is a staff attorney for the Legal Wellness Institute at The Family Center, where she represents vulnerable New Yorkers on matters related to family and matrimonial law, trusts and estates, benefits and housing law. Groetch is a graduate of the New York University School of Law, where she was named a Hermann Biggs Health Policy Scholar and served as the executive editor for the New York University Review of Law and social Change. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.
What or who most inspired you to do the work you’re doing now?
LG: My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by powerful women who draw strength from doing work that they find meaningful and fulfilling. I’ve been lucky enough never to have been disabused of the idea that I should, and could, do the same.
What is the most challenging thing you’ve had to do in your job -or for a client?
LG: The wheels of justice turn slowly, and the wheels of bureaucracy even slower. For my clients with life-limiting illnesses, time is always of the essence. I work hard to get my clients what they need as quickly as possible, often with success. But my clients face so many mountains and I can’t move them all. It’s challenging to advocate for very sick clients within institutions that aren’t designed -and often aren’t able- to provide quick relief.
What career accomplishment has brought you the most joy so far?
LG: When I meet clients, they’re staring down frightening diagnoses, devastating loss and profound uncertainty.
I’m here to resolve legal problems, but my job is also to protect my clients’ dignity; to help them feel heard and respected; and to remind them of their own power in circumstances that would make anyone feel helpless.
When a client comes to me feeling ineffective and forgotten, and leaves feeling strong and important, that’s a huge accomplishment for me.
Children are welcomed to join in this day-long event. The Brooklyn pick-up and drop-off will be near Atlantic Center, and the Manhattan pick-up and drop-off location will be near the State Office Building on 125th St. in Harlem. There is a $30 suggested donation, but everyone will be welcomed regardless of the ability to pay.
If you are interested in joining this empowering trip, click here to register and reserve your seat(s). If you have any questions or need help registering please contact Marya Gilborn at firstname.lastname@example.org