I'm grateful to be here in the 186th District Courtroom at the Bexar County Courthouse this morning for what is proving to be one of the most challenging, but joyful and life-affirming events I've ever witnessed.
SURROUNDED BY LOVE
It's been almost a year since Will was arrested for his role in an ugly incident involving drugs, guns and money, that left him in a coma for four days. It was the horrific result of a series of poor choices he'd made during his last year in high school, leading him to people and places that were totally inconsistent with the warm, loving home in which he'd been raised by his sweet, smart mother. Fortunately, Ellen had the courage to embrace "tough love" and leave him in county jail, rather than bail him out while he was awaiting sentencing for his crime.
As difficult as it was for both of them, those three months behind bars forced Will to take a deep look inside himself - as well as a long, hard look around the cellblock - and to begin making a new set of choices. My clergy visitation privileges allowed me to serve as a conduit for the outpouring of love and support that he received from his family and Circle friends during this period. It was heartbreaking, but also heartwarming, to witness Will's long, hard process of accepting responsibility for his actions, making amends and creating new goals for himself.
CHANGED BY LOVE
Since being released on his own recognizance in February while awaiting trial, he's been working diligently to meet all the court's requirements, attending classes at San Antonio College, finding a full-time job, putting in many hours of community service and creating a positive vision for his life. Even so, we are all fully aware that he could still be sentenced to some serious jail time today, and that possibility hangs heavy in the air.
The judge remains stone-faced when presented with the report of Will's hard work, along with the thick stack of letters of commendation that have been written on his behalf. But when the defense attorney asks all those in the courtroom that are here to support Will to stand, the judge is clearly amazed to see twenty-five people rise in silence. The room goes absolutely still, as not just Judge Herr, but all of the many legal professionals who have been milling around the room handling various details of the thirteen other cases being processed here today, turn and stare in astonishment at this powerful show of love and support.
LOVE IN ACTION
The scene remains frozen for several long beats, while the judge clears her throat and deliberates before giving Will the most favorable outcome he could have hoped for under the circumstances: ten years of deferred adjudication. Presuming that he continues on his current path, the charges will be completely removed from Will's record in ten years, and quite possibly sooner. This is great news.
There's no way to measure what effects our presence, our letters and our support may have had on the judge's decision. Yet there is hardly a dry eye in the room, as she asks the group to stand again, orders Will to turn around and look directly into his supporters' faces, inviting him to feel the importance of living up to the faith that has been placed in him by his community who are holding him accountable.
GRATEFUL FOR LOVE
A few minutes later, we're all hugging each other joyfully in the hallway, where it definitely feels like Thanksgiving has arrived early. There's so much to be thankful for. As tragic and difficult as this process has been for everyone involved, it has helped Will and Ellen come to a much more peaceful, positive place in their relationships with themselves, each other and their community. And the Circle family has certainly been strengthened, not just by Will's personal growth, but our collective growth in faith, and a willingness to demonstrate that faith in action.
It's one thing to talk, sing and study about conscious love and Oneness, but it's even more powerful to see those concepts make such a concrete difference. And I, for one, am deeply grateful to be able to participate in this process and bear witness to the healing power of Love. Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!
With gratitude and blessings.