Recently, I was on the road going from Linden to Livingston, from one hearing to the next. Which is more or less the life of an associate, traveling to the obscure, out-of-the-way county seats. But I don’t mind it. While I don’t love the driving itself, I enjoy the chance to see new things and not be stuck in the office shuffling papers.
Somewhere along the way I missed a turn. I didn’t particularly mind that either, but my GPS clearly begrudged me forcing it to change routes and huffed grumpily about “Recalculating!”
The path it sent me down was comprised mostly of several miles of dirt roads. Roads that hadn’t been manicured much since they were first blazed out of forest and pastureland decades ago. Roads dotted with trailer homes and wood-siding houses that even the word dilapidated is ashamed to be associated with. But not only that, there was a church. The church wasn’t in any better shape than the homes or roads I had seen on my way past the church. There’s no telling when this church had last hosted a congregation.
But the church wasn’t just an object. It was a symbol. And it set me down a nostalgic path for the next several days. Not a longing for things that once were, but just a pleasant mental journey into my past, remembering people and experiences that hadn’t occurred to me in some time. It also brought to mind a poem that I wrote thirteen years ago, seemingly and unknowingly about this very abandoned building. (Note: No representation is made that the quality of this poem is any good or better than poetry written by any other lawyer – but I’m going to share it anyway).
Dark and dank
Through the stained glass windows
Casting a scene
In shades of grey
Dilapidated walls lean
Toward a ramshackle room
In quiet disarray
The Christ hangs at odd angles
Above a stained and empty baptistery
Bibles and hymnals
Lie in years
Of accumulated dust
The worn cloth of pews
The stuffing exposed
As corroded seams slowly unstitch
A dust-covered wooden floor
Scarred by a thousand feet
Save the prints
Of a worn old man
With a shaggy beard
And disheveled hair
Who wanders unsteadily to the front
In the remnants of an ill-sized suit
He collapses on the platform steps
His head between his hands
A tear on his cheek
But more broadly, the scene caused me to reflect on how I had stumbled upon it. A missed turn, happenstance, a change of course.
Whether while driving or in your practice or in a case you’re handling or in life generally, there will be occurrences that cause you to change course. You can either grumble about having to recalculate the route to your intended destination. Or you can take the opportunity for what it is. Sometimes the “opportunity” may be a setback or failure, and that’s a hard thing. Other times the opportunity is just going to reroute you, maybe take you the long way around. But either way, you have the chance to explore new roads (or perhaps old dirt roads) and observe unexpected waypoints.