Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Simple Gifts

Tis the gift to be simple, tis the gift to be free
Tis the gift to come down where you ought to be
I have always loved that beautiful and simple Shaker hymn, so I was delighted to hear it performed so thrillingly at the inauguration. (How brilliant was John Williams' arrangement? The man who wrote the Star Wars theme can do no wrong in my eyes.) I have found myself humming the hymn all afternoon.
It occurred to me when I got home that I have special reason to appreciate the lyrics: I have come down where I ought to be. Just last night, I was chatting with a friend of mine who has been going through a transition period in her professional life. She is trying something new, but still isn't quite sure that she's hit the right thing for herself. Then I reflexively said, "I don't know what else I would do. I just AM a lawyer." She responded she could see that about me.
A few years ago, my parents and I met up with my dad's cousin and his wife for dinner. The couple has been an aunt and uncle to me. Mrs. Cousin told me that she had not been surprised at all when my parents told her that I was going to law school. She remembered thinking when I was just 9 that I would be a lawyer someday. I could argue anything, she said. "But not in an annoying way," she assured me. When I was younger, my dad nicknamed me "Split Hair Sarah" in recognition of my ability to find the loophole or seize on a careless turn of phrase.
So really, no other profession could be right for me. I may not always have had a law degree, but I've always been a lawyer-in-waiting. And I really don't know what other application of that legal training would be right for me. Defending people is just what I was born to do. Perhaps those who have urged me to try prosecution for a little while have a point, that I would have a better appreciation for the entire criminal justice system, but I just can't do it. I would be a fraud as a prosecutor and everyone would know it.
On this day of hope, I have realized how very lucky I am to have found myself in the place just right. It is not a small thing and I do not take it for granted. I hope that all of you have, or will soon, come down where you ought to be.

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