Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

I sent out an email a few weeks ago thanking those people who donated in the midst of our nightmare. (If anyone is reading this and thinking, "I didn't get one"- I sent it using my personal email and realized afterward I probably should have referenced the blog name in the subject line because some of you have no idea who I am and might not open an email from an unknown sender. Please let me know and I'll send it to you again.) Now that the darkest days have passed, I want to close that desperate chapter of our lives. I've amended this post and any other mention of the fund.

I've already written about how much people's support meant to us, and I've mentioned how much the doubt stung (if "stung" could encompass feeling punched in the stomach at a time when you desperately need to be believed and losing more sleep laying in bed at night obsessing over what someone else wrote about you). For once, I've managed to push away the criticism and focus on the fact that so many people reached out and believed. It's really pretty incredible- people I have never met, and will probably never meet, looked past the skepticism and cynicism of today and helped a stranger. Here's part of the e-mail I sent them:

"You all are the amazing people who helped us in the midst of our nightmare. I apologize for taking 2+ months to write you. I've tried to draft this email in my head countless times, but have never been satisfied with the results. I've now accepted that words just can't sufficiently express our gratitude, but I'm going to plunge in and try anyway. And I'll start by stealing something a close friend (some of you know her as Citations) wrote in our defense in a blog comment: 'Now, about the fund. I was sitting next to her in the hospital when she got the message about the fund being set up. She gasped, and clasped her hand over her mouth, and pointed at the screen to get JP to look at it. And there it was, at the lowest and most horrible moment of their young lives–when the entire Establishment was calling them criminal and taking away their baby, they knew that someone, somewhere, believed in them. It was, for them, a miracle. A sorely needed boost.' That almost perfectly sums it up (she has a way of doing that). In those days after they took Landon, one of the only bright spots was getting emails from PayPal saying people had donated." When everyone around you- doctors, social workers, detectives- is thinking the worst and you can't figure out how to make them understand that you would never hurt your son, that physical manifestation of belief meant everything. In the end, the financial cost of our false accusation, not counting medical expenses, the appeal, and without ever having to pay for a trial, came to just under $8,000. That's a lot of money. And incredibly, the donations almost exactly matched that. The large amounts came from our families and close friends, but the smaller internet donations added up to a substantial amount.

And of course beyond the financial support was the outpouring of emails, comments, and prayers from people all over. We just received a package from an attorney in Washington, DC who worked with a classmate of mine over the summer. The beautiful card is one of the only things I'll be keeping after all this is over, as her message perfectly encapsulates the kindness we received from strangers:

"Happy New Year! We've never meet, but I have followed the ups and downs of the past few months on the blog. Some time ago I emailed [redacted] to let her know that I was heading to Houston for a business trip and asked if there was anything I could pick up for her there that would remind her of home and lift her spirits. Unfortunately neither of her requests (sending margaritas and/or her mother) were feasible, but I did manage to pick up a little something for Landon from one of my favorite places in Houston. I apologize for being so tardy in sending this package (part of me was hoping to send it after all this nonsense with DCFS was over). However, I thought that the New Year would be an appropriate time to send this note. I sincerely hope that 2008 holds nothing but good things for your family (starting with a successful appeal and hopefully culminating with passing the Texas bar). You all have been in my thoughts and prayers on a daily basis over the past several months and I am so happy that this nightmare is drawing to a close. The strength and grace you have shown in the face of such horrific events has deeply touched me. I hope that the coming year presents fewer opportunities to demonstrate your admirable skill at overcoming adversity. Warmest Regards,"

It's unfortunate that the good people do isn't as advertised as the bad because there's a lot of good out there. I'm immensely grateful that included among all the negative effects of this investigation is a sense of awe at how wonderful people can be.


  1. Every black cloud has to have a silver lining doesn't it? What did she send Landon from Houston? Just curious. We will continue to keep you in our prayers long after this is over and you are back in Texas.

  2. She sent us a little Chuy's t-shirt, it's adorable :) My camera is broken, but as soon as I have a new one, I'll post a picture.

  3. wow...the kindness of strangers never fails to surprise me. I'm glad that all of us could be there for you. Seeing Landon's happy smiles in the pictures are all we need. :)

    oh, and I am so NOOOOT a lawyer, but even the way you omitted that friend's name was lawyer-ish...thought it was kind of funny.
    ok...I'm just weird. :)

  4. I'm glad you've experienced some of the goodness too.

    p.s. I used to have the Chuy's shirt that says, "That which burns the lips frees the mind." Oh how I miss that restaurant. Sigh.

  5. It's a good one! Landon's is red with a dancig baby one it and says: "I want to rock-and-roll all nite and potty everyday"

    He was wearing it yesterday with just a diaper on and dancing with his daddy- it was hysterical.

  6. I do believe you will have nothing but good luck this year! All of you deserve it!

  7. What a sweet gesture! I, too, think 2008 is going to bring so many wonderful things for you all, if only the joy of watching Landon grow. They are such little miracles, these baby boys.