Today, three people became emotional in front of me and began to weep -- one who was a stranger, one I was acquainted with, and one I knew well. That's a record. This is not common, but it is also not so unusual in my line of work. Attorneys deal with people in difficult situations. I'm always a bit embarrassed for the weeping person, and yet tears are a reminder to me that the person in front of me is human, like me, and despite a sometimes hard or carefree exterior is enduring something difficult or troubling.
The man in front of me today was giving testimony at a deposition, a fairly informal and yet, for him at least, a sobering event. His testimony was transcribed. He had been charged with cocaine use and distribution. When I asked about his family, he told me his wife divorced him because he had an affair with another woman. He began using cocaine. He lost his job (a good one, at Nortel). He apparently lost all his savings (eaten up by his drug habit or living expenses). His eyes were bloodshot. He did his best to look presentable, to look dignified, but his coat was threadbare and his shirt faded. I asked him about his daughter, and that's when he cried. He said he'd lost her, and his wife, and that they would have nothing to do with him, and he couldn't blame them.
This man was 57, past his prime, with a poor legacy to live with. He lives alone. He rents. It must be difficult for him to go on with life sometimes, given what he has lost. Listening to him, I'm glad I am not hardened to the pain of loss, and yet, I have a job to do. I know that I have to make a rational decision about his situation. I have the ability to relieve him of this immediate problem (this lawsuit), but I'm not sure what to do at this point.
I have to go back to something I learned a long time ago. All people are made in God's image. They bear His mark, however dimly. This man is due a dignified treatment, even though he has done wrong, because he bears God's image. His tears remind me of his humanity, and in that sense, I'm glad for them. It's easy to become cynical.
It also reminds me that though all people are impacted by sin (Calvinists say "totally depraved") most are not as bad as they could be. In fact, my experience with criminals is that they are moral in some respect, that they have some notion of right and wrong (however warped). Like the marijuana smuggler who said he never dealt in cocaine because that would be wrong. Everyone except the sociopath has a principle, or principles; it's how God made us.
Jesus had a way of treating the screw-ups in life with dignity, like the woman at the well, or the prostitute pouring perfume over his feet and washing them with her hair, or the thief on the cross. He was a "man of sorrows, well acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). Thank God for that. He treated them like who they were created to be, not who they had become. I hope I treated this man that way.
And that's just the first person who cried.