The most amazing thing happened to me this afternoon. I was busy downloading an edited version of my novel 1603: The Queen's Revenge, when, alas, the doorbell. If left to my own devices I would have missed it entirely, since only my husband and my dogs can hear it. The doorbell at high noon usually announces the arrival of the Steve the Mailman. Not this time.
At the door was a friendly man I vaguely recognized, casually dressed and toting a knapsack. Had he not seemed so familiar, I would have thought he was a salesman or a representative of a local church group.
"Do you remember me?" he asked, and while I did not remember the details, I knew he was someone I had met when I was a prosecutor, and that my interaction with him had been positive. He insisted that I had been an inspiration to him, and he had come with a gift. He wanted to give me several copies of a book he had written. When I said I could not accept a dozen books, he said' how about we trade one of yours for mine?' Then he announced that he had purchased my debut novel The First Marie, and that it was 'hard reading,' which is about the same thing my double-masters educated daughter said about it. At any rate, I traded a copy of my latest work for two of his, one for me to keep and another to share with someone who I think will find it inspirational.
The book is somewhat plainly but tastefully bound, and full of illustrated poetry and music. It is what I would call 'Christian whimsy' if I were to label it. Most of the poetry is exceptional, and all of the sentiment is poignant. Both the man and his book reminded me that sometimes, if we show compassion to those we meet in a public forum and view each of them as a person with fear and hopes and needs, even prosecutors can leave a mark.
It has been ten years last week since I retired as the supervising deputy district attorney in my area, and within the last week I have been tagged for lunch by a formidable young woman whom I met as a child victim when she was five, and I have been gifted a wonderful treasure by a man whose life I touched and who did not forget me. We had our visit today at my front door in that shade of the pine I call my Burn's Tree, which had been given to me by a man who was a defendant I spotted as bipolar and thus made an effort to divert him into a mental health program. He had his mother bring me what was advertised as a pygmy fir tree, advertised as capable of surviving six years in a pot. Our office policy did not permit us to accept gifts other than items that could be shared, so I put the little holiday tree in the lobby for all to enjoy. When the holidays were over, I tried to find a place to plant it and when no one wanted to deal with it, I called the ADA for permission to keep it.
"Don't think of it as a gift,'he said. 'Think of it as a tribute and plant it where there's water, because judging by the plants around your office, you'll probably kill it if it isn't silk or plastic.'
That was eleven years and about twenty-five feet ago, and the only problem with my Burn's Tree occurred this summer when my insurance carrier's risk assessment team ordered me to trim the branches that overhung the peak of my roof, because of fire hazard.
The moral to the story is that a small gesture can make a significant difference, and that the most precious gift is the giving of a piece of ourselves. The man who gave me his book did just that, and so did the child who gave me her trust when she was only five. I had always felt honored by the young man I call Mister Burns, because he allowed me into his personal space, a place were armed bailiffs feared to tread. It makes me proud to have been a lawyer There is nothing fundamentally wrong with lawyers once they've learned that there is more to what a lawyer should strive to do than winning in court, and that life is the ultimate arena.
Thank you, J.Burns, Hillary H, and J.R.Dykes, for being there with me.