Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Earth Has Angels All Too Few.

When I walk into the courtroom, I’m usually seeing folks who are having a very bad day.  Many times, it’s the worst day of their lives.

Sometimes, the person having the worst day of their lives is not even in the room.  That person is a child.  When their cases come before me, they are often hurt – emotionally, physically, sexually.  They are neglected, have special needs, have been exposed to controlled substances within and outside the womb.  They have become the pawns in a power struggle between their parents.  They have been hurt – sometimes horrifically – by the very people who gave them life.

These children cannot speak for themselves.  The people who normally would speak for them are fighting over them, or are the people accused of hurting them.

Into these stressed situations step advocates for these children.  Guardians ad Litem (Guardians “for the lawsuit”) are trained to speak for the child and tell the judge what they believe is in the child’s best interest.

For years, we had just a few dedicated women who served as the voice of the voiceless.  These were true volunteers, paying for their mileage and phone expenses out of their own pocket.  Then, we convinced the County Board to reimburse their expenses.  Next, the Judicial District contracted with professionals to give these volunteers training and supervision.

Eventually, these volunteers were compensated minimally for their time.  Now, they, both women and men, have become employees of the state. 

Volunteer or paid, these wonderful people do this important work not for wages or praise.  They, without exception, do it to make a little more bearable for our most vulnerable citizens.

Occasionally, the judges would sponsor a meal to thank the guardians.  I struggled to find a different way to say “Thank You” each time – in a way that would convey the deep appreciation I and all the judges had for the hard, essential service these wonderful folks perform.  Finally, I found an Irish blessing that conveyed my gratitude completely: 

May God grant you many years to live,
For sure he must be knowing.
The earth has angels all too few.
And heaven is overflowing. 

As we walk our different paths in this life, we are blessed to meet individuals who do our Creator’s work on earth.  I am fortunate, indeed, to have met and worked with several folks like these:  Guardians ad Litem. 

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Next week:  On-Call Weekends