“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked, and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved, and uncared for is the greatest poverty. “
~ Mother Teresa
Last week I had the unique privilege of serving as an alternate juror and it changed my life forever. Barely 16, the plaintiff experienced more poverty in her young life than many ever experience in a lifetime; not only the poverty of homelessness, but the poverty of being unwanted and unloved too. At age five, Jessica was taken away from her biological family due to neglect. After being placed in a series of foster homes, she was eventually adopted by a family who knew her as Amber. As she grew, so too did the violence in her life. No longer able to cope with violence at home, not knowing where she fit in, and not knowing who to trust or where to go, Jessica-Amber sought refuge “on the streets.” In befriending an emergency service worker and his family she thought for a time she had found a safe haven. It was then, however, she found herself in a compromising situation. She became sexually intimate with the defendant – the adult son of the emergency service worker. While the law says she was legally unable to consent to the act by virtue of her age, Jessica-Amber nevertheless developed feelings for the young man who “saved” her even though he never developed any feelings for her. In the aftermath of the liaison and with allegations mounting against the defendant, she was left confused. Not only did she equate the physical act of intimacy she shared with him with love, but she also felt victimized when his family denied ever giving her shelter and as he denied ever sharing physical intimacies with her.
As I sat in the jury box listening to her story unfold, Jessica-Amber touched my heart in a profound way. In hearing her story, I felt as though I knew her. I empathized with her and her vulnerability; a vulnerability so painful that in the past I found myself alternating between suppressing it and lashing out. In “meeting” her, I had to face that vulnerability and in so doing, I felt connected to her as a mother would to her child.
The trial is over and yet in its aftermath her story continues to resonate within my soul. While I fulfilled my role as an alternate juror, my heart aches with all the details of her story; a story that could also be the story of countless others. And while every story, including this one, has a conclusion, I was not witness to it. As an alternate juror, I had become privy to all the details and yet I was asked to leave just as the jury was about to deliberate. I have been given all this knowledge, yet no venue in which to use or share it. Further, I have been asked to place her fate in the hands of someone greater than myself and to have faith in justice being served.
We all meet people who come into our lives for varying amounts of time ranging from a brief encounter to a lifetime. All influencing us, not only on how we view and interact with the world around us; but also on how we see and feel about ourselves. Jessica-Amber, you were only in my life for three days, but in that time you became so precious to me that you changed my life forever. I want you to know your life and your story have purpose. I lay awake at night crying out to you, hoping you found a safe home to go to after the trial. You deserve that. My heart aches as I wonder whether anyone in the world loves you the way I love you from afar. You deserve that too. Your story makes me want to reach out to all the Jessica-Ambers of the world to tell each and every one of you, “Baby girl, you are not alone. Be strong, stay the course, and never ever run away when you get scared because I am with you always. You are in my thoughts, my heart, and my prayers. It is in those prayers, I ask our Heavenly Father to place a very special person in your life so they can show you what I have been shown…what love truly looks and feels like. Love feels so incredibly beautiful with its unwavering acceptance. Its warmth embraces you with its brilliant white light and provides a life filled with promises and possibilities. It’s unconditional and the ultimate safe haven. It not only fills your heart with joy, but it expands it so you can embrace everyone who enters your life; the same way you entered mine. It is with this love that I embrace you now and long for the day I can welcome you home!”
Remember … touch a life today “The Little Way” by following the lead and need of others. Also, if you ever thought to yourself, “I wish my customers, knew…”, then be sure to visit White Light Communications at http://www.tothewhitelight.com.