A few weeks ago I was rudely awakened by the phone ringing at 6:30 in the morning. It was my youngest son calling with one of those phone calls that every parent dreads.
"Mom, we've been in a wreck".
Well I knew he must have been okay because he was calling which meant that he was conscious enough to at least do that. After a few seconds my heart started beating again and I began asking questions. "Where are you? What happened? Is anyone hurt?" etc. He did have some neck pain so we made a trip to the ER to be on the safe side. Mild whiplash, some muscle relaxers and he was back at school.
It turns out that the man who rear-ended them was in the country illegally and had no insurance.
Later we also discovered that the girl he was riding with also did not have insurance.
Really not good.
So, to make a long story a bit shorter, my son was required to appear in court yesterday as a witness. We went along too to support him, to see what was going to happen with the man, and to request the court to make the man pay for the hospital visit that resulted from the wreck. We waited for 2 hours in the courtroom only to hear the man's attorney requst a continuance. Great! All that time only to find out we have to go back March 7th.
But it was an entertaining 2 hours. At times it was difficult not to burst out laughing. Two people were there for urinating in public. One lady who was charged with possesion of drugs decided to lash out at the judge - always an excellent decision. She is now a guest of the Butler County sheriff's dept. for the next 30 days. One lady was here from Guana and was supposed to be accompanied by her interpreter who just happened to be out of state. The judge used exaggerated gestures to try to explain to her that her intrepreter was not here and that she was to come back next Tuesday. One can only hope she understood.
One situation though was nothing less than heartbreaking. A 20 year-old mentally retarded man was led into the courtroom in shackels. He is charged and confessed to killing another resident at the facility where he lives. He had no clue that he had done anything wrong and only wanted to "go home with his mommy and daddy". I work with mentally retarded and mentally ill adults and can easily see how something like this could happen. Many times I have gone to work wondering if I would be beaten up while there. He became very emotional and reached to hug his parents. When he was not allowed to hug them the bailiff hugged him and patted him on the back to comfort him. This young man was adopted by his parents, a pastor, when he was 18 mos. old. He had been sexually and physically abused as a baby. Such a waste.
The whole experience left me feeling weighted down. I honestly don't know how the judges do it. I was drained and I only saw a very small portion of what she had to deal with. I felt bad for the addict who had lost nearly everything. I felt bad for the people who were here illegally even though it does irritate me. I felt bad for the retarded man who was denied even a hug from his parents. I felt bad for his heartbroken parents. I felt bad for his victim's family and friends. I felt bad for the judge who has to somehow figure out where justice is in all of it.
At times like this I wish I didn't feel. I wish I could just not care. I wish I could dismiss them all as jerks who will get what they deserve. Sometimes I try to do that, and sometimes I even succeed. But as I sat there watching each one take their turn standing before the judge I couldn't help but be reminded that they were all human beings, each with their own story, their own pain, their own struggles who were just trying to get by the best they know how.
So tonight I say a prayer for each of them, and for myself becuase I too do stupid things and I am grateful for a God who understands our weaknesses and cares for us in spite of our failings.