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Gifts as They Are
My clients are indigent. For some reason. many people confuse the word "indigent" with "indigenous".  "Indigenous" people are the natives of a particular place. The indigent are poor people. Public Defenders get appointed to criminal cases when people can't afford to hire a lawyer. This unique brand of clientele sets our experiences apart from those of most other lawyers. 

We never have to stalk people for money, or tell them that they can't afford our services. 

Occasionally (though a better word might be "rarely"), we really get to help people out of tight spots and our clients want to thank us. Now, as we've already established my clients are not the native peoples of Florida, but rather the poor, it becomes clear that they can't really afford to give us lavish gifts to show their thanks. 

But they gifts they do give have taught me a valuable lesson. 

A while ago, I had a very nice lady I whose case I tooke to trial. I really did a lot of work on her case, and she seemed appreciative. As we sat on the courthouse steps, after all was said and done, she invited me to her church's next fish-fry. 

Now, if I were a cynical man, I would have thought, "Great, an artery killling gathering in a place where I'd likely get shot or mugged before I even smelled any fried fish." To put it delicately, I would be the only white person in attendance at that fish fry. And a fellow could consider how awkward that would be. 

But consider the gift as it is. This is a woman with virtually no money and barely any home. She's a Southern Baptist, and she is essentially inviting me to meet her pastor and her church community. These people are the center of her life; this is where she cares about people's opinions. 

She invited me into the most important part of her life, even if it was just a gathering to fry fish. In its context, her gift is a kingly one, and I am honored to receive it. 

Some gifts are not so dramatic. For some of my homeless clients, the simple act of calling a twenty-five year-old like me "sir" is all the gift they can manage. But for guys that usually urinate in public and drop the f-bomb in front of a judge, it really is a pretty nice gift. (Though avoiding the f-bomb would be a better gift... I'd have less people held in contempt of court.)

My clients have really taught me to appreciate gifts in context, but I really see it in other parts of my life now. 

Because of his stroke, my father really can't lavish us with gifts anymore. This will be the first Christmas where he will not do a bit of the Christmas shopping. He also can't do any of the decoration. But he does what he can. He has been really pushing himself hard in his speech therapy, and he has been more agreeable and up-beat around the house. This may not seem like much, but for a man who is wrestling with deep depression, who used to be brilliant and now struggles just to think clearly, that sort of effort is herculean, because I'm sure that his loss this year is hitting him even harder than it is hitting us. And he does it all just so that we have an easier time getting through the holdiay season. 

Again, another kingly gift as it is. 

I realize it is a very lawyerly thing to say, but everything really does depend on context. You'd be amazed what sort of gifts are lain at your door if you are willing to accept them as they are. I only write this piece here because especially during the holidays, I see a lot of people stalk around with an "I deserve" attutide, totally unaware of what they've actually been given. 

- Kenshusei

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I get gifts of friendship and support.
There are no better.

You know, not to sound contradictory, but your father may not be struggling to think clearly. Rather, the struggle is to express himself clearly, something even more frustrating given the ability to think clearly.

Which, truly, makes his gift even greater.

Some his behavior indicates he's having trouble reasoning, as well as actually communicating what he's thinking. When he first had the stroke, I thought he'd be exactly the same, only with impaired communication, but his interaction with us and the physicians are showing impaired cognition, as well.

Depression itself can also cause cognitive problems, and a sort of brain fog that makes it hard to think clearly.

You certainly are getting your priorities straight, and I do appreciate knowing that you are in the world. Take care, Ken.

you would eat some dang good food at that fish fry. I myself have attended some poor black southern baptist fish fries and they are top notch. You are correct that it is an honor to be invited and a gift worthy because it is a true gift. Too often gifts are not with meaning. We'd like them to be, but inclusion, where you would normally not be, is an amazing gift of reaching out.

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