Many years ago, Ken and I became certain that our oldest daughter would grow up to be an attorney. My aunt once called her ‘strong-willed.’ Her teachers said she was ‘gifted.’ As a child, her debate and reasoning skills were beyond compare for her age. Even after skipping a grade, she continued to show wisdom beyond her years with her ability to apply logic to any situation.
Without prompting from us, Rebecca joined the Mock Trial team in high school and then captained her Mock Trial team in college. The local attorneys who stood in as judges at her school meets labeled her ‘the bulldog.’ Standing up in a courtroom, facing a judge, and arguing a case fueled her intense passion, not only for the law but for what was right and wrong, just and unjust, fair and unfair.
The only thing that had us questioning her career path was her extreme empathy. Was she tough enough to be an attorney? Did she have thick enough skin to fight for her clients without becoming emotionally involved? Was her honesty and integrity best served in another sector? Was this really the right path for her?
Well, here we are…
On May 22 of this year, Rebecca will graduate from law school.
She will shake the hands of the dean of her law school and smile as she crosses the stage, ready to take on whatever cases are thrown at her. And, to the extent that she can, she will do so on her terms. How? By embracing the one thing that we thought would hold her back.
Rebecca sees every person as just that–a person. A person created in the image and likeness of God, possessing unalienable rights. It makes no difference whom they are, where they came from, what their skin color is. For within her bulldog exterior is a passionate and loving heart. Her empathy has led her on a road few of us envisioned.
As we watched Rebecca in the courtroom of her youth, we saw her as the star litigator in high-profile cases, the prosecutor who would stop at nothing to see the defendant found guilty, the protector of her client’s rights. What Rebecca has become is what she always was inside–a defender of human rights, of the lost and broken, of those who many feel have no defense. After spending internships with both prosecutors and defenders, she found her calling in the prisons and the pro-bono clinics and the back rooms of courthouses where the attorney is the only hope left for some who are deemed hopeless.
Last week, Rebecca called and asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with her over the weekend. When she mentioned the title of the movie, I was at a loss. I wasn’t sure I had heard of it.
“Remember, Mom, I’ve heard this guy speak. My friends and I drove to Frederick to hear him with the hopes of meeting him. He’s one of my heroes.”
That man is Bryan Stevenson, and his story is told in his book and now the movie, Just Mercy. What makes this man so special, even heroic in Rebecca’s eyes? According to the website of his organization, the Equal Justice Initiative, “Bryan Stevenson is a widely acclaimed public interest lawyer who has dedicated his career to helping the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned.” His accomplishments include eliminating excessive and unfair sentencing, protecting the rights of mentally ill defendants, and exonerating innocent death row inmates. He works tirelessly for these things because, in Stevenson’s own words, “We all have a responsibility to create a just society”
This is the person Rebecca wants to emulate. This is where her passion comes from, not from the thrill of a courtroom victory nor from the money that could line her pockets, but from the ability to show defendants that someone cares, that someone will fight for them, even if the purpose of the fight is just to ensure a fair trial. Someone will make sure the accused are recognized as human beings with dignity. Rebecca plans to live the values that she preaches. She personifies the words of St. Francis of Assisi, “It is no use walking somewhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching.”
I am sure that I will not always agree with Rebecca’s decisions when it comes to her chosen path. I know there will be times when it will be hard, even for her, to stand beside a defendant in court and hear the extent of his or her crimes. I know there will be situations and circumstances that may come close to breaking her spirit. I also know that the words of Bryan Stevenson are words Rebecca believes to the depths of her soul, “You don’t change the world with the ideas in your mind, but with the conviction in your heart.”
I can only imagine the depth of the love and the pride I will feel on May 22 as I watch Rebecca accept her Juris Doctor. I will feel just as much love and pride when I watch her in the courtroom, defending those who will benefit from her passion. I know that Rebecca will use her talents and focus her passion to do what God and His Church have taught her, just as her hero, Bryan Stevenson does.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: There’s Gotta Be A Little Snow Sometime.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, is now available! Purchase your copy today of the “book that was a joy to read!”- Ann on GoodReads.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).