A few years ago, I found myself in a courtroom with a friend. What I witnessed that day lit a fire in me that has prompted me along my current path.
That day, a young man was brought into the courtroom to stand in front of the judge. I understood from the conversation that he was a repeat DWI offender who had been clean for over a year. But that weekend, he was seen having a beer at a local bar. Someone reported him, so the police were waiting for him when he pulled out of the parking lot. The judge named his disappointment in the young man who was duly hanging his head and looking remorseful. When the gavel came down, the young man was sentenced to a month in jail.
As the bailiff applied handcuffs and then grabbed the man’s elbow to escort him out, the young man’s voice sounded desperate when he asked if his sentence could wait two days. He explained that his wife was away with her family and that he was responsible for the children until she returned. The judge shook his head kindly, but once more slammed his gavel. The children were to go to foster care for two days until the young man’s wife returned.
“This will act as a reminder to you in the future,” the judge said, his caring tone lighting an angry fire inside of me.
On one level, I completely understood that the judge felt he was being kind. He believed this repeat offender needed to learn his lesson so that he would never stop at a bar for a beer again. However, as a bystander who was not embroiled in the drama, I saw a young man who had been clean for a year. I saw a man who made one mistake with one beer. More importantly, I saw two young children traumatized by being sent to a foster home for two days with no understanding of why they were being punished. Was the judge right? Or was he wrong?
The Light and the Dark
What is kindness to you? For me, it’s pretty straightforward. If you need help, I offer you help. If you need money, I will donate to you. If you are down on your luck, I will work with you to rebuild your confidence. I’m a good and caring person and I want the best for you. But when does my kindness begin to disempower you and in the long run begin to weaken your resolve to strive? How do I know where to draw the line?
The big question here is where does my responsibility end and yours begin? I’m going to be exploring this idea over the next little while since I have wrestled with the question for so long. My hope is to start a conversation on an important topic. I hope you’ll join me, and I especially hope you will share your thoughts with me.
On another note, our Jumpstart to a Happier Me program has been so successful that it will be an ongoing program in the future. As soon as it is set up on my website, I will let you know. I am also putting together my I Love My Life course. It should be ready to go by February. More on that later!