Linda and I and our son started to do some volunteering with Rise and Shine which was the church’s early morning shower and breakfast and job support group for homeless men back in the nineties. After a while I reached out to Martha – this when she was with us the last time around – and said I’d like to do some legal volunteer work, and she pointed me to John Pickens and Georgia Justice Project.
John Pickens said I don’t need any help. And I said but you do. And he said no I really don’t. It’s too much trouble.
I didn’t give up. Finally John says fine. Why don’t you go with me and observe and I did and then he assigned me an armed robbery case. He gave me a bodyguard to interview the witnesses, and I went to the crime scene and the police. It was so intimidating. My day job was negotiating deals for multi-million dollars, but this was a lot more intimidating to me. Because negotiating a plea involves somebody’s life.
So anyway, I ended up handling several other cases and going on their board and then board chair. Georgia Justice Project still does a fabulous job trying to help people get reasonable representation. Recidivism is high but not as high as general population.
Looking back, meeting the humans at Rise and Shine made me realize how they were real people and hurt like everybody else hurts. And that I’m one or two mistakes away from being in a tough patch in my life and so is everybody else. We just don’t know it. The Aha moment for me was how much I identified. We are not that far apart. We are just not. How tenuous life is. How lucky I am.
Ken Stewart, corporate lawyer and former Economic Commissioner for the State of Georgia, is All Saints’ Senior Warden. He is standing in front of the” Don’t Leave Before the Miracle” sign at Covenant Community, another long-term Stewart family commitment.
Ken and I recently realized that we graduated from the same public high school in Jackson, Mississippi, two years apart. Go Murrah Mustangs!