Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Smile

The first thing I noticed was her smile.  Although it did not seem forced, there was effort behind it.  That's not that odd, I guess.  I don’t practice happy law.  Rarely are people happy to see me.

She was a petite, almost frail woman, in her early to mid fifties, according to the client intake form, though she did not look much older than forty or so.  She had come here once before, over a decade ago, to file for bankruptcy.  She swore she would never return.  You don't often get a chance to start over, but she was going to take advantage of this chance, she said.

Now, life is different.  Six years ago, her husband got a huge promotion, with an equally large pay increase.  And just like that, a thirty year marriage was over.  He gave no reason.  He only said she would make someone a lucky man.  But it wouldn't be him. He didn't love her anymore.  He left her penniless, in debt, and literally homeless.  Even my last name isn't even mine, she says.

Her body shakes in spasms as she sobs.  And yet, the smile is still there.  The smile, she said, is all I have left.

She had no family in the country, no job, and now, only shattered dreams of a future she had planned to share with her husband.  But like a stubborn reed, she would not break, though bent well beyond the strength that she knew.

She returned to school, the face of experience standing out amid a sea of youth.  She became a nurse, after long nights of studying, and early mornings lying in bed, crying, hoping for the strength to make it one more day.  Her nights were spent with friends, saving money until she was finally able to move out on her own.

Now, she is ashamed.  Once again, she is in our conference room, discussing bankruptcy.  She still smiles.  She still cries.  Her shoulders sag and she looks down.  Almost as if someone has let her air out, she sighs and says, "I tried.  I really, really tried.  I did the best I could and still failed.  Again."

Sometimes, my job is not so much about answers I can give, but rather about giving direction.  Sometimes I just help people find their way through the noise.

And so, I do.  I lay out the plan, and in doing so, give her some hope.  She leaves our office with a road map.  And a smile.

[A] bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice  Isaiah 42:3.

2 comments:

Rev. Paul said...

"Sometimes I just help people find their way through the noise."

Often, that's all we can do. We must continue to pray that it's enough.

K. Erickson said...

I know it's not what a Christian is supposed to do, but I can't help but want to pray for the kharma bus to run the ex-husband's hide down.