Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Day with Special K

I was lucky enough to spend time with Special K today.

Special K loves unconditionally and has a work and service ethic like none other. She manages every aspect of her daily life with beauty and grace, even though she has two children with some special needs and a husband who is... let's go with... quirky. She is bright and engaging. Her plate is more than full. She sits on boards, she volunteers, she crafts, she corresponds, she cooks, she reads, she entertains, she cares deeply about everyone whose life she touches, and she shoots beautiful pictures.

Tonight I learned that Special K was recently called for jury duty and ended up sitting on a murder trial. It changed her life. That may sound far-fetched, but when you know Special K, the woman she is at her core, and understand that for which she stands, it seems natural.

In explaining the effect the experience had upon her, she told me stories about all of the other jurors she met. She has a personality to which people are naturally drawn, and it's not uncommon for folks to open up to her in ways they might not ordinarily. It came as no surprise that she knew each one's personal history and could tell me, in detail, about the jurors and their families, as if she'd known them for years.

She explained how amazing the bailiff was. A man named Love who has made a career not just of serving the court but also of serving at risk youth. A man whose number she collected so that he might come and speak at her boys' schools. A man who is willing to reach out to kids on whatever level is necessary, be it through a game of HORSE or a scared straight visit to his place of employment. A man whose pearls of wisdom touched Special K deeply enough for her to want to stay connected to him, you know,

She talked of blessings and gratitude and far away worlds that lie just down the road from where we both live. She quoted herself as she relayed a story about speaking to an elderly lady and, in doing so, reminded me of how incredible she's always been with older folks. Special K was the only person my grandmother could actually hear while not wearing her hearing aid... hmmmm... we still joke about it often.

As she talked to me about the murder trial experience, Special K welled up. She told me how she cried when the verdict was read, not because she didn't think it was the right verdict, but because of what she'd seen and heard and visualized and because not a single family member of either the accused nor the deceased was present in the courtroom for any part of the proceedings. That fact was hard to swallow for someone so focused on family.

After the trial, the jurors all stood together and breathed a collective sigh of sadness and relief. Special K glanced over at the oldest juror, Miss Y, who, she said, had really struggled throughout the deliberations. Miss Y knew the defendant was guilty but she hated that he was "just one more statistic". Special K, who, frankly, isn't overly religious but wanted to connect with Miss Y in way that would be meaningful to this wise woman, reached out her hands and asked Miss Y if she wanted to pray. Miss Y smiled through her tears and began to do just that. Special K noticed that Miss Y didn't pray for the defendant nor his victim but, instead, for the young men and women in Miss Y's community and countless other communities like it who have become numb to the horrors around them because it is, simply, a way of life.

Reflecting upon the process, Special K and I launched into an amazing discussion about what we are all born into, how we are the same and what things make the greatest impact in the lives of children. We agreed that breathing in that baby shampoo scent is made all the sweeter because when we snuggle a new baby we are also breathing in hopes, dreams, promises. Yet, even the tiniest moment can forever change the direction in which our lives take us. None of us is immune to that. None of us living just up the road know for sure the people we care most about won't ever take that ride into town.

And, with that, Special K's eyes were opened a little wider, her mind broadened a little bit more, and her ability to live and love without judgment reached new depths.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Governmental Improvements

And so it happened one school year that a certain cranky teacher asked her class to create the laws of the classroom. The students took the task seriously as she had explained to them that they were no longer just students but that they were, instead, the legislative branch of their government. They deemed her the executive branch (because apparently they knew there wasn't actually a royal branch. Whatever.) but only after engaging in an excellent discussion about whether the principal of the school was more like the president or the Supreme Court. They made the decision based on what they learned about roles, responsibilities, checks and balances.

Obviously, common courtesy dictated that if the judicial branch had to interpret the laws, the kids should, at least, share the laws with said government body, so off they went to visit the principal with their class constitution in hand. As they arrived, they found both the principal and assistant principal huddled together. They proudly presented their laws to the judicial branch for review. The justices scoured the document, asked quite a few open-ended questions and, ultimately, were thoroughly convinced that the class constitution was solid enough to receive a thumbs up.

Just before the group left the office, the principal asked "so, there were two of us today and we agreed. Does the Supreme Court have a method to keep ties from happening? If not, what do they do for a tie-breaker?"

Ahhhhh, a wide smile crept across the cranky teacher's face, for she knew with great certainty the kids had the answer to this one. They had discussed the number of judges and various policies and procedures.

From the back of the room, a little hand shot up to answer. The principal called upon him and the response was a resounding "rock, paper, scissors!!!!".

And suddenly the teacher's head was filled with visions of the Supreme Court justices going two out of three.

It's actually not a bad idea.