Friday, August 11, 2006

The practice of law at Central Dallas Ministries

Since 1999, Central Dallas Ministries has been offering professional legal counsel out of our full-service public interest law firm. Founded by John Greenan and Ken Koonce, the LAW Center (Legal Action Works) represents the interests of the very poor in the courts of Dallas County.

Recently, one of our dedicated lawyers sent me the story I've copied below your your reading. I think you will find it moving. At the same time, I believe it provides a very accurate glimpse into the world of our practice here in inner city Dallas, Texas.

I have a client at the LAW Center who has just been notoriously difficult.

When I met her 10 months ago, she was a hardcore junkie. She hadn’t had a clean day in years. She had lost custody of her young son—he went to live with his dad in Lubbock pursuant to a court order. We fought to have an order entered that would at least entitle her to see her son under the supervision of a licensed counselor once a month. I told her that the ONLY way that we could ever go into the courts to try to change the existing order for her is if she (1) got sober and (2) got a job and began making her child support payments.

She tried and failed and tried and failed for seven months to get sober. I listened to her cry and rage and anguish over he son, her loss of control over her life, and her repeated unsuccessful attempts to beat her addiction.

She stopped calling me about three months ago, and (quite honestly), I figured I’d never hear from her again.

She called me yesterday and told me that she has been sober now for 90 days. She just got a job at Traildust working as a waitress, and she is in a program now at her church that focuses on community outreach. She is serving food to the homeless.

She sent her son a t-shirt from that program for his birthday, and when she went up for her first supervised visitation, her son hugged her and said, “Momma, I’m really proud of you.” (He’s seven).

I sent her flowers, but I know that all the flowers in the WORLD couldn’t touch that one sentence from her son. THAT will keep her sober. Not words from me about how she has to do X, Y, and Z to change a court order, not even the sage assistance of her drug treatment counselor.

It’s that sentence from her son that will keep her going.

I just wanted to share that with you. I think it would be easy to pat ourselves on the back and say, “look at what we helped to accomplish!”

Really, all it makes me want to do is say, “Thank you, Lord, that you allowed me to have the tiniest glimpse of her and her life and what you’re doing in it.”

I think it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that WE are the lucky ones—not our clients—that we get to do this work.


Thanks to all who have been involved so far in our "blog fund" campaign to raise $100,000 by October 31, 2006! For details on this effort take a look at my posts on Tuesday, August 8 and Wednesday, August 9.

And please remember: spreading word about our effort to your friends and associates is as important as making a donation!


MommyHAM said...


What a wonderful story. 90 days for her, with 7 mos of failing to get even 1/10th(I assume, knowing how things work) of that kind of sobriety! That's a miracle, and you're right, it's not you, your people, etc who made it happen. IT's not even her who made it happen. It's the complex entanglement of:
- a series of unfortunate events
- relying on God (higher power, etc)
- determination
and MUCH much more that helped get and stay clean. The lining up of all these things is a statistical miracle, given the odds.

The story touched me. And having been a supervised visitation volunteer, I know it touched the person watching their interactions. Her child has been touched, and so many more - yet another miracle of how a spark starts a roaring fire.

Thanks again, brother of the heart.

Jeremy Gregg said...

Great story -- confirms that the most important work of the LAW Center has less to do with providing legal service than with simply building a relationship.

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