There is a best-selling book by Spencer Johnson, M.D., entitled “Who moved my cheese?” It is about change, the fact that it happens and how people deal with it.
The legal profession, like most businesses and other professions, has changed significantly in the past 30 years. When I started practicing law in 1983, law firms were much smaller than they are today. But like business, they have merged and merged again. My firm has changed names four times in 28 years.
How we accomplish our work also has changed significantly in 30 years. Believe it or not, when I started as a lawyer, I had to practice law without a computer, perform legal research with real books and use regular mail as my primary method of forwarding documents to clients. Now, I can go to court with an entire case file on a small electronic device and I can keep up with what is going on in the office on my phone.
The world around us was so much different 30 years ago. Newspapers were still a primary way of gathering one’s news. In many ways, the world seemed smaller.
Over time, things have gotten bigger and smaller. Bigger cities, bigger businesses. Smaller phones, smaller computers. And let’s not forget the internet.
Some people embraced these many changes and made them work for them. Others resisted these changes and went kicking and screaming into the new worlds they created.
Some things have not changed. One of those things is politics. The other is the fact that the way people deal with change has not changed. Some people welcome change, some people understand and seek to be a part of it and other people have a real hard time with it.
I confess that over the years, I was one of those people who had a hard time with change. I didn’t like mergers. I liked continuity. I didn’t like surprises. I liked knowing (or thinking I knew) what was coming next. I was stubborn and it cost me at times.
I have come to realize that people either learn to adapt to change or you might as well stick a fork in them and call them done. No doubt, change can be difficult at times, but it also can be very rewarding.
Our law firm passed around the “Who moved my cheese?” book many years ago when we were rolling out some new ideas, possibly one of our mergers. I have kept it and read it again from time to time. Thinking about Amendment One, I picked it up again and thumbed through it.
The book is about four characters. There were two mice named “Sniff” and “Scurry” and two “littlepeople-beings as small as mice but who looked and acted a lot like people today”. Their names were “Hem” and “Haw”.
The “cheese” is what they got everyday they went to work. Over time, the cheese supply began to dwindle. Sniff and Scurry noticed. Hem and Haw refused to believe it.
Then one day, the cheese was gone.
Sniff and Scurry accepted what they saw, and simply struck out to find and embrace the new cheese. Hem and Haw suffered a range of emotions. Depression. Anger. Refusal to accept the fact that they had to change. They liked their cheese the way it was.
Haw was the first of the littlepeople to come to grips with the situation. Eventually, “he realized that change could lead to something better”. He learned that he could put aside his “fearful beliefs” and he admitted that the “biggest inhibitor to change” lay within himself.
Haw was concerned about his friend Hem, because when Haw struck out to find and accept the new cheese, Hem was still being stubborn. He prayed for his friend to find his way, and then as the book draws to a close, he hears a small noise in the maze moving in his direction.
Amendment One is about trying to defeat change, but the lesson of this book and the lesson of life, is that change cannot be defeated. It will happen whether you like it or not.
May 8th is approaching quickly.
The Sniffs and Scurrys of NC are out there trying to drum up votes for the opposition to Amendment One, in the hope that change will have a chance to be accepted sooner rather than later.
The Haws of NC are still on the fence.
And the NC Hems are still stuck in denial. They are angry. Their supply of cheese is dwindling, but they are oblivious. Their friends are trying to talk to them, but they will not listen. They don’t want anyone moving their Amendment One cheese.
It is time for us to help the Haws of NC understand the value of the new cheese that might be born if Amendment One is defeated. The NC Hems aren’t there yet, but we have friends among them, so we can pray they make it out of their little corners and follow the rest of us into another part of this remarkable maze we call the real world.