Vol. 29, No. 12
CBA President's Message to Members
A Gift of Life
by Dale R. Harris
As far as I know, I never met Helen Jane Warren Fair. I learned everything I know about her by reading a story in the inside section of The Denver Post after she died of cancer a few months ago.1 I was touched by the story, and I thought you might be, too, especially during this holiday season. Hers is a story about a gift—a gift of life. Her life was a gift to others.
Helen Jane Warren Fair was a legal secretary at one of Denver’s well-known law firms. That was her day job. The rest of the time she gave tirelessly of her time, energy, and resources to make life better for others. It would take all of this space, and then some, to list all the ways she made a difference in other people’s lives. Whether it was giving blood, or donating money to countless charities, or adopting stray cats, or working in her church library, or using her own savings to provide low-cost housing to the elderly and downtrodden, she seemed to have a special touch for the little things that make big differences in the everyday lives of everyday people.
I hope you will dig up the Post article and read it—or call me and I’ll mail you a copy.2 The thing that caught my eye was not that she did so many things; rather, it was the fact that almost nobody had a clue that she was doing them—except, of course, the people she was helping. Apparently, she didn’t want others to know. As one of the firm’s partners said: "There are some people who take credit for everything and do very little. She was the type of person who did very much, but took very little credit."
Her story is full of lessons for all of us. One lesson is that service to others is its own reward. Helen Jane Warren Fair must have felt that way. It must have given her life shape and meaning to know that she was making a difference in other people’s lives. And she obviously expected little or nothing in return. The reward was in the doing. Haven’t we all felt that way at one time or another? Aren’t the pro bono cases we take or our efforts to make our profession and our community better places some of the most satisfying things we do?
Couldn’t we all benefit from an occasional reminder that fame and fortune—even if we should be fortunate enough to achieve them—are fleeting? Few of us will ever be remembered for how much money we made, or how many billable hours we generated, or even how many victory notches we might carve in our belts. But people like Helen Jane Warren Fair will long be remembered by the people they helped and for the lives they touched. Their legacy will be in the way they lived their lives and the example they set for others. These are legacies that last.
Another lesson is that we need to keep our lives in perspective. Helen Jane Warren Fair was only 55 when she died. None of us can be sure that our time won’t be cut short, too, before our hopes and dreams are fully realized. Life is fragile and sometimes fleeting. So don’t waste it. Fill it with things that count.
Finally, we should take a minute to say "thank you" to the unsung heroes around us who do good things for us and for others. Because she was so private, it seems that Helen Jane Warren Fair’s friends didn’t get a chance to do that. Her colleague at the law firm said, "I don’t think Helen allowed herself to know what a positive impact she had on people. . . . In the end, I wish she would have allowed people . . . to show it, . . . to give back some of the good thoughts she had given to them." Unfortunately, even when we do know good things are being done by others, too often we let them pass, take them for granted, or put off till tomorrow the pat on the back that just might make a difference in their lives. This would be a good time to resolve to do a better job of letting others know how much they are appreciated.
So during this holiday season, let’s remember people like Helen Jane Warren Fair. Let’s honor their lives and enrich our own by following her example. Lend a helping hand to someone less fortunate. Open your wallets and purses just a little wider for the Legal Aid Foundation or United Way or your other favorite charities. It will make this time of year just a little more special.
1. The Denver Post (Sunday, Oct. 29, 2000) at 6B.
2.You can reach me at (303) 892-7330 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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