“Congratulations. You have a lawyer!” Most of us would not be thrilled to hear those words. However, when Joy’s new attorney shook her hand and spoke these words to her, they became a soothing salve on a long-festering wound of rejection and oppression. For over eight long years, Joy has struggled to find a job because of a past criminal misdemeanor offense on her record, which in effect sentenced Joy to a life on the streets. Even though Joy completed probation and has had no other criminal trouble since this lone offense, employers have routinely turned her down simply because of her adverse criminal record. However, according to state law for at least the last six years Joy has been eligible for a non-disclosure, which would allow for her record to be sealed from employers who might use it to deny her employment. All Joy needed was an attorney to take her case and fulfill the procedural requirements.
But how was Joy supposed to get an attorney? She did not know any lawyers, had no other access to the legal system, did not know her statutory right to seal her record, and above all could find no attorney that would help her without a hefty sum of money that she did not have. No job, no money, no attorney, no access to justice. Needless to say, after being rejected for eight long, difficult years when Joy heard the words, “Congratulations. You have a lawyer!”, Joy was beyond thrilled. Joy was so buoyed by the good news of release, I thought we might just float down out of the attorney’s sixth floor office! Joy, now resurgent in her quest for a way off the streets and out of an oppressive world of unemployment, homelessness, and injustice, reminds me of the Apostle Paul’s powerful words: “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
All it took was a team of folks that listened and understood and were willing to act compassionately by providing access to the justice system and hope for her future. Our deep gratitude goes out to the attorney who took Joy’s case for 10% of his normal fees (not 10% off but only 10% of the entire cost!). Utmost appreciation for the social workers and case managers who have struggled with Joy for a while now, always searching to make a way out of no way, providing the advocacy and confidence she needed to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles in her life. It is such a blessing to work together with Joy as we seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly together with Joy, accompanied by God.
We broke some ground that week in the attorney’s office, and we also broke some bread. The bread of new life, of justice, of release, of love. And it tasted sweet. Oh so sweet. Come, taste and see this bread of new life and pave the way of justice, mercy, and love for all.
Do what you can with what you have right where you are, and with a heart of compassion and courageous love. And the world, including your very life, will be transformed. And full of Joy.