Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Following A Dream

I wanted to write this post yesterday, to coincide with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, but as this post will explain, my life has been a bit hectic, and posting has been put on the side a bit. We all know about MLK’s dream, and yesterday on facebook, I saw this (more than once): A fitting tribute to Dr. King: "Last week we saw a white Catholic male Republican judge murdered on his way to greet a Democratic Jewish woman member of Congress, who was his friend. Her life was saved initially by a 20-year-old Mexican-American gay college student, and eventually by a Korean American combat surgeon, and this all was eulogized by our African American President." We are nowhere near perfect (lest we not forget that this included the death of 6 people, and many others shot), but it is a fitting example that dreams can come true.

When I was 16, I was a camp counselor, and my father was a child custody evaluator (he still is). He used to tell me about children of divorce in court; they have no voice, and the judge need not consider their wishes at all (though even then, there were many who did). Working with children, I knew that they were a lot more together than we adults often give them credit for being. At 16, I also thought that children should have a lot of say in their lives. As years went on, this became my defining mantra, and I went to law school to give children a voice in the legal process. Interestingly, I never wanted to be a lawyer in the traditional sense of the word; in fact, I was not even sure what lawyers do, other than in the family law realm. While that has since changed, my initial dream has not been diminished.

As I have mentioned before, this year I am heading to New Zealand (actually tomorrow) to study their family courts. In New Zealand, every child whose parents are divorcing gets a lawyer, every child in a child welfare case gets a lawyer, and every child in the criminal justice system gets a lawyer. Their courts are committed to listening to children. When I heard that, I knew I had to go. The pieces started to fall into place, and when I get on that plane tomorrow, I know it will be to fulfill a dream more than a decade old.

People keep asking me what I will do when I get back. This is a very lawyer question. We need to have a plan. We need to know what is coming not just tomorrow, but next year, in five years, in ten years. We do not do well with insecurity. Although my yoga practice has been thrown for a loop since I moved out of my apartment on December 30, yoga still guides my actions when I stop and reflect, and yoga has taught me that I need not know exactly where I will be when I get back. I trust the universe. It has never failed me yet.

Martin Luther King, Jr. did not know what physical manifestation his dream would encourage. He was probably not thinking about gay Mexican-Americans, but the spirit of his dream lives on when we ignore all that makes us “different” and understand all that makes us human. I cannot, in any way, compare myself to Martin Luther King Jr., but I can say that, like him, I have no idea how my dream will manifest. I do not know what will happen upon my return in a year, but I know that children will be better represented the more information that gets out there, and I know that I have to write a long thesis.

This blog will not go away. Yoga and the law follow me everywhere now, and I will be getting my LLM (Master’s of Law) while I am over there. I have already found the yoga studios where I will be. I am positive that New Zealand will be full of wonderful fodder for this blog. But here is my pledge and intention because if I make it public, I must follow it:

I pledge to live up to the expectations of my 16-year-old self, to learn all I can about how best to provide for children in the legal system, and to come back here ready to use that knowledge to help. I further pledge to utilize what yoga has taught me because if I have learned anything since entering law school over 5 years ago, it is that the current model is not sustainable and until we start to treat each other, and all participants in the legal system, better, the system will continue to fail.

See you “down under!”

Namaste and Blessings!

© 2011 Rebecca Stahl, all rights reserved


  1. Hi there, I just read on 101cookbooks that you are heading to NZ. I hope you enjoy your time here. Also re: Heidi's brown butter spice cake. We have millions of what we just call pumpkins here, available all year round that I am going to use to make it.
    Good luck in NZ :-)

  2. What a moving piece. You are already making such a difference in the world and I know it will continue as long as you are on (and even off) the planet. I feel blessed to know you and I want to continue 'hearing' you all the rest of the days in my life. May your trip not only fulfill your beautiful intentions but also provide you with unexpected joy and blessings.
    Much Love, Marti

  3. Thank you, Emm, for inspiring me about New Zealand. I am getting more and more excited. And thank you, Marti for the continued support.

  4. You are totally welcome Rebecca. New Zealand is a beautiful country.... even though we are moving to Perth, Australia in just over a month! We'll be back though. This is my home.

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