Monday, October 29, 2007

Courage and Wisdom

In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

Quoted by Robert F. Kennedy, delivering an extemporaneous eulogy to Martin Luther King , Jr., the evening of April 4, 1968, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC)
Greek tragic poet

On Saturday, Oct. 27, 2007, I attended a Nashville Coalition Against Domestic Violence event called “Meet Us at the Bridge.” It was held on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge. It was an event to honor those individuals who work to prevent domestic violence. It was also a time to remember those who have died as a result of domestic violence this past year.

I stood in the midst of the crowd and learned of the wonderful work and dedicated efforts by some individuals. I heard about lives saved.

I also heard of lives lost – taken away by violence. Taken away by someone who was supposed to care for them.

There were statistics that were announced to reinforce the tragic existence of domestic violence in our community and to emphasize that it is a community problem. I thought about writing down the statistics to share as I wrote about this experience. But, the numbers just seemed like numbers. They didn’t reflect who these victims were. Soon, I learned who they were.

One by one, they named each person, their age, and the day their life was taken. As their name was spoken, someone came forward and dropped a rose from the bridge into the water, to drift away with a final farewell. The family members will not forget and they will carry with them the senseless taking of the loved one’s life. Children will carry the memory of violence throughout their childhood and as an adult. Will it make them stronger or will it make them part of a cycle? When they hear adults arguing loudly, they will anxiously wait and fear that someone will be hurt, again?

I heard of the killing of children under the age of 5. I thought about my grandchildren and the joys that they have experienced that these children never will – riding a bicycle, that special birthday party, falling safely asleep in the arms of a mother or father.

I thought about next year and the victims to come. How close to death are they now? Who in this group will have an opportunity to “save” them, protect them, and help them start a new life?

I recalled sitting in our family law section’s case review last week and listening to the flood of calls that had come in during the past week regarding domestic violence. Our staff provides so much information and guidance to many of the callers so that they are safe, know how to get an order of protection, and how to have a safety plan for themselves and their family.

Then, there will be others for whom we will schedule an appointment to come in. I also learned that there will be a significant number of “no-shows” when the appointment day arrives. Sadly, it is unlikely that things “getting better” is the reason why they didn’t come in for further help.

For the victims, it can be too hard to follow through, too hard to see that they do have a choice, too hard to see that they deserve better, and too hard to believe that they can “make it” without the abuser.

It requires so much courage and wisdom to break away from the pain.

I was reluctant to write about this because I thought it would be too depressing and dark. But, we all may have some opportunity in our walk to save a life. It may be a co-worker, neighbor, or a family member. Our office distributes a little laminated card titled “15 Signs Someone Might Be Dangerous”. I keep some in my wallet now. I will give it to my four daughters and, in time, give it to my five grandchildren.

There are organizations and people who can help. Our staff in the family law unit told me about women that showed extraordinary courage and wisdom to make a new life. They told me about how their lives have been changed and the strength they found within themselves.

There are options. There are choices. There is hope that someday soon, when we meet at the bridge, we can talk about all the lives saved and not throw any flowers in the river.

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