Perspective

My foray into the Halls of Justice is over.  Thank goodness.  That was a scary way to spend a morning.

Your advice convinced me to dress very mommish and conservative, though not TOO business-like.  I wore black slacks, a white shell, and a turquoise cardigan.  I hadn’t planned to wear any jewelry (you know, to communicate "I’m much too grieved by my traffic sins to accessorize").  But in a last-minute brainstorm this morning I put on a simple strand of pearls.  It was perfect–I looked the very part of a slow-drivin’ June Cleaver.

I got there in plenty of time to sit and watch the other defendants stroll in.  This was criminal court (mine was not an optional appearance–in my city, when it’s a school zone violation you HAVE to appear before the judge.)  They were an interesting lot, as I had been told they would be.  The young man next to me had something in his ear that I think was meant to be an earring, and he furiously drew elaborate tattoos on his hands and arms the whole time.

There were two other "PTA moms" there.  As the crowd grew and we shuffled together to make room, the other two PTA moms and I found ourselves seated together.  "Birds of a feather," you know. 

I was very, very nervous.  A courtroom is a scary place, especially when you’re the one being given instructions on how to approach the defendant’s table.  The judge reminded me of Dick Cheney–kind and teddy-bearish in a gruff, don’t-mess-with-me sort of way.  Thankfully, I was not in the first couple of batches called, so I could observe what to do.  People who pleaded "not guilty" were given a court date to come back and plead their case.  Those who pleaded "guilty" or "no contest" received their fine and/or sentence on the spot.  I quickly noticed that the judge was more lenient on "guilty" pleas than on "no contest" ones.  There were some other traffic violations there, as well as some more serious things–public intoxication, shoplifting, drug possession.  I felt terribly out of place and more than a little miffed that I had to be there.

Until I saw her.

The judge called her name in the group before mine, and she stepped forward very slowly, her shoulders hunched forward.  She looked to be about my age, though she was very tiny–she couldn’t have weighed more than 100 pounds.  She had obviously made an effort to present herself well–she was clean and respectably dressed, but she looked ill, tired and pale.  She was clearly frightened and embarrassed.

As she stood at the defendant’s table, the judge read her name (in a sterner voice than he’d been using with others) and stated her crime:  solicitation of an act of prostitution.  She began to speak, very quietly, her face lowered.  I could barely hear her, but I could tell she was explaining to the judge that there had been some sort of administrative mix-up.  She had already served jail time for this offense and shouldn’t be here.

The judge looked over her records.  "It says here your attorney has recused herself from your case," he said.  She nodded.  She looked very confused.  And alone.  She mumbled some more explanation that it was hard to hear, though I caught the tail end of her words:

"….because I was raped, and so I was in the hospital.  I have the medical papers with me here."  She held up a stack of forms bearing the familiar logo of a local hospital.  The judge’s voice softened ever so slightly as he encouraged her to plead "not guilty" today and give herself some time to find a new attorney.  She nodded.  With painful slowness she turned around to face the 50 or so spectators in the gallery.  She didn’t look at anyone.  Her cheeks were blushing, stark against the paleness of the rest of her face.  Shoulders still hunched, she shuffled out the door.

And just like that, she was gone.

I was quickly snapped out of my somber thoughts when my name was called for the next group.  The person ahead of me (one of the other "PTA moms") received an especially harsh penalty–a large fine and 15 days of probation for a simple speeding violation.  My knees were weak when I approached the defendant’s table.  The judge read my name, he read the accusation against me, and he asked me I understood.  I normally don’t have trouble talking to anyone, yet I weakly offered, "Yes, sir."  He asked me how I’d like to plead.  I had planned to state my plea in a calm, reasoned, apologetic tone.  As it turned out, I was lucky to have any voice at all.  "Guilty," I nearly whispered. 

The judge looked over my paperwork (hopefully noticing my spotless driving record?)  Though the maximum fine for a speed zone violation was $500, he announced I would receive a $200 fine.  I was given instructions on how to pay it. 

And that was it. 

I walked to the car, relieved, frustrated, and thankful all at once.  My nice leather loafers made a smart little click-click echo throughout the parking garage.  I pulled my sweater more tightly around me against the brisk April air.  And I thought of her

I looked down at my nice shoes.  I looked at the cell phone in my hand, poised to call a supportive husband who had been praying for me all morning.  I looked at the nice car I was about to climb into.  I thought of my happy and healthy children.  I thought of my tight support network of family and friends. 

And I thought of her.

What was she doing, right then?  I doubt she was walking as briskly and purposefully across the parking garage as I was.  I wonder if she was looking for a lawyer right now?  I wonder if she was wondering how she’d pay for it?  Or for those medical bills she showed the judge?  I wonder if she was warm?  If she had kids?  Who took care of them today so she could come to court? 

I don’t even know her name, but I think of her today.  I’ll be thinking about her for a long time.

56 thoughts on “Perspective

  1. MommaBlogger says:

    I’m glad everything went well for you. I feel sorry for that girl. It’s difficult to see others in what seem to be difficult situations, not knowing the full story of their lives, and how they ended up where they are.

  2. Girl Gone Wild says:

    sigh….that kind of punch is worse the court appearance. How sad that she is one of so many. At least you stopped to notice her and think of her. That’s more than so many other’s do.

  3. Janelle says:

    I’m glad you made it through without 20 years in the prison laundry room! The other lady you mentioned sure puts things in perspective though. I’m adding her to my prayer list.

  4. Deena @ The Prayer Wall says:

    Father, thank You for this good outcome. Thank You for providing. This woman, this one we have no name for…You know where she is, You know what she has done, and You know the truth of her situation. Send believers into her life that can minister to her of Your love, Your healing, Your redemption. Place a hedge around her and guide her into Your arms of love. We may not know, but we know You know…and that brings us great comfort. Watch over her…watch over us…and let us always notice the ones no one else notices, and to lift them up to You.
    In Jesus’ name, amen.

  5. Jenny says:

    I’m glad things worked out relatively okay for you. 🙂
    Wow, your encounter certainly reminds me that I have a lot to be thankful for, much of which I take for granted everyday.

  6. The Preacher's Wife says:

    It is time we all were more aware of the ‘hers’ around us..Reminds me so much of the Casting Crowns song, “Does anybody hear her?” If you haven’t heard it, you simply MUST listen to it. That is the most awesome record…
    Glad you got off relatively easily…though sometimes I think a few days in the slammer – three hots and a cot, would be somewhat relaxing..That is, as long as I had a good book and Bertha and the girls were locked safely away a few cages down. :))

  7. boomama says:

    OH, Shannon – I am in tears. I’ll be thinking about her today, too – and for many days to come. I will keep her in my prayers.

  8. An Iowa Mom says:

    I’m glad everything turned out okay for you. I was thinking of you this morning.
    It’s sometimes harsh when we are faced with the reality around us that we sometimes choose not to see.
    The gentle reminders we are given to know that these people are all around us are sometimes hard to face. I too sometimes feel guilty for the things I have that others don’t. However, I think I’ve chosen the right roads along the way, even though I was sometimes tempted to take another path. I’m lucky for that!
    I feel for that girl. And for the many just like her. I’ll be hoping for a good outcome for her, though we’ll never know if it exists.
    Maybe today should be the day I start thinking more of the people out there like that. Not just today … but everyday!
    Thanks for sharing your story!

  9. Barb says:

    You’ve moved me to tears, Shannon. I feel awful for you, that you had to have this experience at all. But oh my word, that poor “her” will be on my mind for a long, long time.

  10. Haden says:

    I am glad it worked out well for you. Isn’t it amazing how often we forget ho blessed we are? Thank God he gives us reminders that push us back into humilty and reality that we aren’t perfect. Hopefully that woman gets help. Hopefull someone will be there to love her.

  11. Jesse says:

    I’m glad to hear that everything worked out for you. As for the lady how sad as you were describing her I could clearly see her in my mind. I pray that she has help to get through all that she has been through.

  12. mopsy says:

    Dang. That makes me want to cry.
    I’m glad you can put this experience behind you now—but you are right, you’ll never forget her.

  13. Amberly says:

    What a story. Seems like no matter what situation we’re in, there is always something or someone to remind us that things could be much worse. And amidst what we consider to be a trial, we can be reminded of the blessings that we do have. Glad things went well for you and it seems like that ticket may have been a blessing in disguise–a little moment of perspective.

  14. Annie from Where the Green Grass Grows says:

    You know, reading your post, and then reading all these comments of women just like you and me… made me think of how the Lord does everything with a specific purpose in mind. Since you were there, whether you were guilty or not, all of these women “like us” have now prayed for this one woman, who in her very heart, is just “like us” too. I would pay that fine for you if I could. $200 seems like a small price to pay for all the prayers she’ll be receiving today.

  15. Nancy says:

    I’ve had a horrible day…deception by one I called “friend”, insulted and humiliated publicly by one I don’t even know…just a nasty day all around.
    And yet, I am SO lucky!
    I just welled up reading this and will say a prayer for “her” to find a soft, warm spot on which to fall…and that Jesus will hold her tenderly.
    Glad this is behind you.

  16. Rhonda says:

    I spent many days sitting in a courtroom quite a few years ago. I was not there for myself, but to support someone else. I still remember some of the people there, even though I only saw them for a few minutes.
    Some people have very sad lives. We are truly blessed.

  17. Faerylandmom says:

    Your post reminded me how many “her’s” there are out there. I am so glad we serve a God who can touch them, and who will bring them across our paths once in awhile to remind us who we really are…
    There, but for the grace of God…

  18. jewlsntexas says:

    Wow – I know – it is so true. Reality check please. I wanted to refer you to the post of a friend of mine about something very similar – http://bigreddriver.blogspot.com/2007/04/she-looked-so-good-till-you-got-up.html
    We have to remember to instead of judging (not saying you did – all too often we do though) that each person is a soul Christ died for.
    Doesn’t it just wrench your heart out sometimes to see people who need to hear and KNOW that so badly?

  19. Barbie says:

    Oh that breaks my heart:-( I just posted on being the Body of Christ today…it is HUGE and can make such a difference in someones life. Thank you for sharing that story and I will be praying for her. Off to dry my eyes,kiss my children and thank God that I am not alone.

  20. Alisa says:

    Your story broke my heart. So many times it seems that our circumstances are the worst ever-then Jesus opens our eyes and we see those around us. She sounds like the woman at the well. I pray that Jesus will be her living water.

  21. Sharon says:

    Phew–glad that is over. I remember having to go to court with my 17 year old who fell asleep at the wheel and totaled my van. It was a strange situation to be there with people who were guilty of horrible things. So many people with no hope.
    I thank God for that little woman and her struggles. Thank him for touching me heart and giving me a desire to pray for her and thank Him for using it as a opportunity to remind you what you have. God is good like that.

  22. the Butler's wife says:

    Wow! I am glad that everything turned out well for you. And I appreciate your sensitive story about that young woman. It is very sobering. I often wonder what life would be like without the path that God has set before me. Some seem so hopeless and lost. Of course we don’t know the state of her soul, but we do know the state of her heart. Sad, and alone, and hurting.

  23. Emily says:

    I know you will have a lot of comments to go through…but I wanted to let you know that you are very lucky. Not just for having a simple time today, but you are lucky to have witnessed the tragedy of the young lady. I am sure that it impacted you more than you are able to express in your post, and you will probably not know how many people she will impact *THROUGH* your post. I am affected, and hope that it will stay in my heart for a long time…not only to pray for her specifically, but to notice those around me who are not as fortunate as myself.
    Thank you.

  24. Casey says:

    Makes me kinda wonder if she was the reason you got pulled over in the first place, ya know? Like she needed someone praying for her and the Lord knew you were the one to do it.

  25. JanB says:

    I am glad it’s over for you, but I feel so bad for the lady for whom it’s no where near over for. Sometimes it is good to get a good hard look at where we are and where others are. You really opened my eyes today.
    It’s sort of like when I am grousing about my kids and then I read about a kid with cancer. It stops me in my tracks. Just like that.

  26. Monkey Giggles says:

    Thank you for reminding me..not to look away–to forget those who our society may look down upon. Remembering those who cross our path– even for a short moment can change us. Smiles going out to ya.

  27. Melanie says:

    She was the reason you were there. She needed someone to pray for her and love her like He does. And she will never know it. I am glad for your outcome, but even more thankful that you could be there in that room and feel compassion for her. Thank you for sharing and allowing me the opportunity to love her and pray for her, too.

  28. Kahri says:

    Your posts always touch me, this one especially. I always leave your page laughing, crying, or having learned something new. I nominated you on my page today for the thinking blogger’s award. Thanks for all your wonderful posts!!

  29. Brandy says:

    A $200 fine isn’t easy to take, but you were there for a reason–to see the girl so you could pray for her, and relay her to us readers so we could pray for her too. And you can bet I will.
    God knows she needs our prayers. He wanted you to notice her. I’m glad you weren’t self-absorbed in your own case to overlook her. May God restore that $200 quickly, and then some.
    Brandy of The Building Brows

  30. Mom of 3 says:

    I feel for that girl. I am a lawyer who realized half way through law school that it wasn’t for me. I finished and used the profession minimally as a means to obtain my airplane piloting goals.
    The courtroom is scary, depressing place to be. And…there is no more depressing place to be in my mind, than in a law library looking at rows and rows and rows of books each with many pages of tiny print detailing human misery. Glad I don’t do that anymore!

  31. Carrie says:

    Perhaps you could get a copy of the docket from this morning, figure out which person she was, and suggest a pro-bono lawyer give her a call?
    Seems a bit far-fetched, but who knows, maybe it could happen.
    Life loves to give us these little wake-up calls now and then. Thanks for sharing yours.

  32. Jessica Snell says:

    Oh wow. Lord, have mercy on her.
    And you, Shannon, are one powerful writer. I’ll be thinking of that woman too. May Jesus find her as he found Mary Magdalene, another woman who didn’t have a comforter to turn to.
    peace of Christ to you,
    Jessica

  33. Overwhelmed! says:

    Oh my goodness, Shannon. What a powerful and yet sobering post you’ve written. I’m offering up a prayer for this unknown woman as part of my bedtime routine tonight!

  34. Karen says:

    Reading this, I am reminded what a mighty God we serve and how things that seem so important to us while we are “in the moment” are diminished when we take the focus off of ourselves and look around us once in a while.

  35. J. Fergie says:

    Ok, Deena’s prayer is about to make me cry right here at my desk at work.
    I’m so glad it went well for you. And I will say a prayer for that woman who made an impression on you.

  36. His Girl says:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing. Your blog was doubtless a boon for this poor struggling woman as so many bring her before our God in prayer!

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