This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
Examine your life! That seems like a very simple request.
But I bet if you tried to do it, that procedure is, as has been
paraphrased, “It would be harder to put a camel through a needle’s
eye.” There that concept is again. It’s ages old and still unheeded.
But we have found those who can follow that example: the
firemen/women who gave their lives for love, for duty, for another.
(This generic role model should also extend to our modern soldiers
overseas placed in harms way.) There are people in this world who
have accomplished this parable. We need to locate them and begin
asking them questions and LISTEN.
As I mentioned, as a kid I wanted to be either a fireman or
policeman. But as I grew up, I was led to believe by societal
forces (and I will not name each one that influenced me, but you
can figure out who and what they were in your own lives) that
money was God. So, you guessed it, I strived to become one of
those ambitious working class Joes. In my twenties, I looked for a
steady job that would pay the bills and give me a little extra to help
receive credit, mortgage a home, buy a car, stereo (and now, a flat
screen TV, cell phone, iPod, updated computer, HD network, and
video equipment including, Guitar Hero and Wii) and go out with
the boys buying dinner and drinks ever so often. In that, I found a
sense of financial independence.
However, what my job had become was something I was
not. As a lawyer, I would represent clients who coordinated the
issuing of loans to people in monetary difficulty, or individuals
who wanted to pay off their debt, or to live in retirement
comfortably, or to buy a house bigger in size than they could
afford, and the developers who could supply that. I was green and
threw myself in whole heartedly. I was polite, worked hard, and
competent. I actually cared. Yet over time, I became callous and
jaded. I was turning into someone I was not: from kind to mean;
from caring to careless; from creative to festering and verbose;
from joyful and loving to hateful and angry. I had to set aside my
professional training due to the societal stress and start fresh.
By way of a confessional, as I closed those above
referenced deals, below are a few illustrations of what I and my
associates would tackle and co-promulgate.
Scenario 1: A middle-aged couple with two kids have
maxed out their credit cards. The father is a plumber unable to
make a living because of all the bills he has to pay to every
collector, you can imagine, just to survive. He has a bad credit
history. But my mortgage broker client gives him a loan to
refinance their debt (pay it off) at a lower interest rate than his
15%. My client offers them 10%, saving 5%, but still well over
the going prime rate, 6.5%. The couple is satisfied because
everything is consolidated into one debt, and, the kicker, they pay
no closing costs. Of course not, because these fees are all
(including a point at 1% of the loan amount and associated bank
fees) financed in the loan. In other words, they still pay for the
costs, just over time in their interest payments.
For example, if they needed $30,000 to pay off their credit
cards, the mortgage broker gave them $40,000 which includes
$10,000 worth of his fees to do the deal. Even though they have a
lower payment, it’s still at a higher loan amount. Does that make
sense? Well, it wasn’t my duty to say because I was hired only to
settle the transaction and record the documents, and not to give an
opinion. But, to make it even worse, to get this broker client’s
business, I also had to agree to fraudulently modify the HUD-1
statement: one to show the borrower without certain bogus fees
the broker never disclosed, including the kick back the broker
received from the final bank that would service the loan, and then
another revise the HUD-1 to the final lender where the loan would
be placed with all the charges. My fee was only $250 per closing.
Who do you think collected the most on this “legitimate”
transaction? The banker brokers absconded with thousands.....
Scenario 2: An older couple only have social security to
rely on for retirement. They have both worked their entire lives
until 65 and just had some money invested in savings bonds
because they were afraid of the stock market. They have their
home, but they took out a home equity loan to make repairs over
the years and used any extra money to pay off that. My bank
lender client offered them a new type of creative financing.
Without going into the technical details of it, needless to say, when
these folks die, the only thing they leave their children or heirs
would be another pile of debt. In other words, the inheritance
would end up zero, but instead became a negative number or less
than nothing, because all the equity in their house would be tapped
in the reverse. This loan was based on a inflated appraisal, which
reality later dictated to be of much lower value. The sale of the
home upon their demise didn’t even cover all the outstanding new
Scenario 3: I was required to account for every one-sixth
of an hour on a time sheet for the law firm, which I did religiously.
I did not make up any time for stuff I did not bill; however, most of
the partners did. My hourly rate was $125 and the partners’ rates
were usually $250. There would be times when I would sit in a
partner’s office for less than fifteen minutes and see that partner
mark two hours on his time sheet, classify it as a conference with
the associate on the case, and promptly leave for an early lunch.
Then I would go to work the rest of the day or week researching
the case on behalf of this partner in charge, who then would deduct
my time and override it with more of his or hers. This
misrepresentation hampered my growth for truly and accurately
accounting for my time and was reformatted falsely by the partner
to allow the firm to bill the client at a higher rate. This negative
reinforcement also made it tougher for me to get ahead without
resorting to the same scheme.
So, enough elaboration.......
These few experiences made life hard for me to sleep at
night knowing somehow I was a co-conspirator in these unfair
practices disguised under a legal mask. And as we in America
know, there are other scams in different industries that we breathe
in every day. I don’t mean just those perpetrated by the lower
classes of society, but by real educated people. (On a side note: A
whole separate book would be needed to elaborate on the constant
cheating and affairs by and among the office staff: lawyers with
secretaries, paralegals or court clerks, and clients.) With that
knowledge, I decided to change careers and to help others:
students. But even that experience was disillusioning in many
In this second stage of my life as a teacher, I realized that
the cracked framework lies beneath the “scum” of this earth and
has insidiously pervaded the very paradigms of the systems for our
youth. I left the realm of money and power as an attorney, and
began collecting the lowest paycheck I had ever received as a
working class stiff. An institution of higher learning hired me to
teach middle and high school kids. I had seen how the elementary
children behaved, which looked real fun, as they were still unsoiled
and genuinely curious about life. But since I didn’t have an
official teaching certificate at that age level, I had to pursue private
schools. Suffice it to say, there was some overlap with my prior
life. In this newer environment, my fellow teachers and I faced
some of the following unsettling scenarios.....
Scenario 1: As a new teacher, who was initially unfamiliar
with the territory, I worked diligently from 7AM until 10PM on the
average staying up at night preparing for class and learning more
about this new educational routine reading how-to resources. At
the end of the year, the kids were tough but good to deal with in
the larger sense, and I knew my efforts were making a difference.
But not once, did I ever get a “thank you” or “job well done” by
my superiors or other administrators. I think they had forgotten
what it was like to be in the trenches because I felt like a delegated
servant jumping to their every whim or idea, in the form of an
order; or, being convinced to take on more duties, for free, so that I
was physically on campus almost every weekend. Now, I enjoyed
being with the students, but sometimes one needs a break. I soon
discovered that this was one of the reasons this profession, as noble
as it is, has a high turnover rate.
Scenario 2: My fellow teachers were totally inconsistent in
their dealings with the students and me. Consistency in discipline
is a must, I understood. I had heard this principle from my
supervisor. But I was the victim of the chairperson of the
department not supporting my rules or classroom environment.
For example, she was guided by her need to be a popular teacher
and made fun of my policy of having students be to class on time.
In another situation, one minority student who had academic
problems was kicked out of school for plagiarizing, while another
unruly kid, whose parents were connected locally, received a slap
on the wrist for drinking on campus and shooting his fellow
classmates with a slingshot.
One day, we had a school meeting about honesty and
respect, and I discovered later that while the heads of the school
lectured on this topic, as we were all enclosed in the chapel facility,
they also had instructed other teachers, in cahoots with them, to
search the high school lockers for certain paraphernalia in question
at that time. Constitutional rights what? Invasion of privacy?
What real lessons are we teaching our children? Like radar, the
students knew, saw and listened to what was going on around them
in spite of the administration’s disguising.
Scenario 3: And the most troubling of all was the teachers’
interaction among themselves, and the parents’ apathy toward their
children’s behavior. Some teachers, married or not, would have
affairs and then bicker over things when they went soar. Some
threatened harassment suits. One new teacher had an affair with a
teaching couple’s husband and broke up the marriage, where he in
turned married this new teacher after a year. One teacher was
reprimanded for making snide remarks to the girls he coached
because he allegedly looked up their skirts. Another teacher
started relations with several single parents of students. And
finally, at almost every parent teacher conference, no matter what
the child did (poor grades, bad behavior, etc), the blame was
thrown always on the teacher or the school procedure as the fault.
And the school administration supported this denial perspective to
avoid negative feedback from parents, and at the private
environment, to insure their financial commitment next year. We
were like rats in a big maze scurrying about aimlessly to avoid
being unjustly targeted. No accountability!
Scenario 4: For academically weak students, a long term
teacher advised me to “flush them through the system.” Why?
Because what I was doing was requiring more parent conferences
than my co-teachers due to my giving kids lower grades, who had
received higher grades the year before. Not only did this action
make my co-workers look bad, but it showed a hole in the system.
Moreover, where access to firearms is unlimited, aka, Columbine,
this same mentoring teacher instructed me to give the student the
“B” to avoid him or her coming back the next day with a gun and
Scenario 5: And lastly, discovered when one of my close
friends left for a higher paying job at the nearest public school for
a similar position, he remarked there was only 5 minutes to teach
per class. He said he daily called a security guard to break up a
fight or some disturbance. In addition, due to all the bureaucratic
requirements, he couldn’t teach anything except the “test”, which
the students had to take statewide. No wonder we have the worst
public education on the planet.
Now, I ask you, which one of these careers reveals what is
more damaging to our society?? When I am on my deathbed
looking back, is this effort what I have to be proud of? When those
firemen/women went up in the Twin Towers, did they understand
that they were responding with a true clarity of purpose and were
prepared to die then? What about the victims? These are hard
questions to ask, but ask we must. For to begin the new fabric, to
begin again, to go beyond just mere survival and pain every day,
we must help each other. And this effort of love, an extension of
your frail being, will involve re-examining your life. This
reflection will involve quiet time. This analysis will require you to
slow down and really soak it all in and think, yes, think, about your
life. Think about YOU! What do you really want? Listen to your
heart from within to find the answers.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?