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Reflections on reflecting: In the best light | Ian G. Wilkinson

Monday, December 23, 2019 @ 12:10 PM | By Ian G. Wilkinson


Ian G. Wilkinson %>
Ian G. Wilkinson
Holidays are often a time of reflection and none more so than the new year and Christmas or whatever you want to call it or celebrate it as.

And on reflection, I’d have to admit, I didn’t like Christmas with the rampant distortion of its message by the blatant commercialism. Over time, however, I learned to see past that and focus on what I thought was the best interpretation of the event.

Not being an adherent to the underlying dogma, it seemed to me that the real message of Christmas was simply that we should be thinking of and seeing each other in the best of lights — not the worst. As a social message, to me it means being understanding of and charitable to others and being as forgiving as we can be of their transgressions, weaknesses, inconsistencies or other perceived interpersonal deficiencies.

As an individualist, I can support that because it is a message of acceptance and love, so has a ring of truth to it.  

So, for me, the holidays came to be about connecting with family and friends again. Humans are social animals but still, we are individuals, alone and isolated in these material shells. Innately, we crave the joy and deep contentment we get when we truly connect with others. It is a kind of validation of our unique human nature. It can provide meaning to us, uplifting our sense of self and our humanity to rise to the best we can be beyond what we are as individuals. Regardless of spiritual belief or any other categorization that might divide us, that is a paradigm of unity.

Speaking to and about paralegals (I am supposed to write a paralegal column, after all) and looking at things “in the best light,” we have much to reflect on this year. I can speak to the progress in the profession, such as family and criminal law scope advancements, as clearly positive examples.

I can also say that, despite the potential for division or even acrimony, the paralegal benchers’ election was an event that showed us coming together and maturing as a profession. The debates, such as they were, were comprehensive and equanimous. Thought leaders of the profession stepped forward and, for the most part, had a vibrant airing of issues and concerns. The election was something that helped to connect us as a community with our own distinct culture.

Yet, not to be too Pollyannaish, there are many among us who are struggling, either financially or emotionally. For what it is worth, the ideal of looking at the best light applies here, personally as well collectively.  

Financially, for many, things have been tough in our profession but they are getting better. The scope of practice is widening and our coming together as a community will only the increase level of collective support and enhance our ability to not only “stay in the game” but have that challenging professional career that we all worked so hard to qualify for.

Emotionally, the holidays can also be depressing because reflecting on our lives is almost thrust upon us. For some, depression can run deep. That kind of chemical imbalance can make it such that even when a person has a “rational” understanding of the depression being experienced, that weight can be impossible lift, or at least, like picking yourself up with your own bootstraps, it can be impossible to do alone.

But reaching out to others is especially difficult for those in our profession because we feel we are expected to be champions of rights, have a strength of will and be all that is virtuous. It feels like it shows weakness and failure to admit that to ourselves, let alone reach out to another.

So, it is to you also, indeed perhaps most of all, I speak to about seeing things, especially yourself or your circumstances, in the best light. Mere words cannot eliminate the challenges we face finding the “truths” in our lives but another’s perspective can help remind us of how uniquely human we are — individual but not alone.

And that is what we are as paralegals. Individuals but not alone. We are a community with a unique and diverse culture. We support and help each other to meet those challenges we face. There are too many examples of this in our helping profession to even begin to mention.

If Dec. 25 is a time of reflection, then Dec. 31 is a time for looking forward to what might be. I would not say I am “hopeful” about the coming year; I would instead say I am optimistic. Hope is simply optimism without reason and I have reason to believe that things will get better for our profession. I can but only hope that this translates to better things for individual paralegals wherever they raise their flag. That’s my way of looking at things in the best light. So, in 2020, may the best light shine on your future.

Ian G. Wilkinson B.A., LL.B. provides litigation paralegal services throughout southwestern Ontario. You can e-mail him at iangwilkinson@legalcentre.ca or visit www.legaleagle.ca.

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