Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

From the trenches of the court house

I have been trying to be a pillar of hopeful stillness as my close friend and neighbor prepares for a court hearing tomorrow morning. I will testify on her behalf to share what a wonderful parent she is, but in only two hours I fear it will be difficult to offer the judge all that I have witnessed to attest to why her children should be spending more time in her care and less in their father's. To the father, this is about child support and not the well-being of his kids. To her, it is about creating a safe, consistent, healthy, and nurturing environment for her two boys.

I felt first-hand this afternoon the intimidation of the lawyer, calling me to ask me questions about testifying. I have spent time in court rooms myself, going through a tedious and insulting court battle which lasted 9 months and involved a hate crime. I have been deep breathing today to prepare for tomorrow, to let go of all of the anxiety I have felt in a court room. I remember looking up at frosted New England windows and the American flag as a judge called out details of the case I was involved in. I remember tears rolling down my cheeks, even when I told myself not to cry or express the pain I was feeling. And I remember understanding for the first time in my life that the laws in place were not always set up to create justice and freedom, that you are guilty until proven innocent, instead of innocent until proven guilty. I was young then, not that I am not still young, but my spirit was about to undergo a cultivation of strength unsurmounted by most other events in my life.

How to move forward and represent that strength for my friend tomorrow? She has been told by lawyers not to cry in court, that women tend to express themselves too emotionally in the face of justice and that it is not looked kindly upon.

I wish I could simply stand up and say, "Your honor, I have seen the faces of these two children lit by sunlight in the darkest moments they have felt, simply by basking in the presence of their mother. I have overheard conversations between her and her boys that last hours until they feel resolved about being bullied at school, until they are empathetic when they themselves have been bullies. I have seen them dancing throughout the living room and creating villages out of chunks of clay. I have noticed every facial expression they have borrowed from her and their comfort in lying beside her in bed while she reads them Pippi Longstocking. I have seen the eldest quietly wrap his arms around her and tell her first thing in the morning how much he loves her; and the youngest, up at night with her drinking steaming mugs of chamomile with almost an entire bottle of honey squeezed in. I have watched them wake and make pancakes, fresh whipped creme, the eldest has added fresh strawberries to my face-sized pancake because I love the fruity sweetness.

I have hiked with them through mountains and under trees and held onto their hands when the current became too strong while their mother photographed every breath of their journey, at least 15 photos of the little one and his amazing discovery of a cat-tail in the water. I have heard their laughter billowing through open windows and have seen the immense selection of creative devices at their disposal. I have seen them widdling pieces of wood, attach leather strips and glass beads to their creations. They have danced in my living room and fallen asleep in my papasan chair watching anime that will teach them gentle lessons of life and love. They have run alongside my dogs and eaten from my garden.

Your honor, did you know her eldest will ask for a green bell pepper in the grocery store when every other child wants a chocolate bar? Did you know the youngest is gifted and intelligent and a creative mastermind with gentle hands and brilliant eyes the same color of his mother's? Do you know how normal it is to hear singing filling their home? Do you have time for my list of moments where she has pulled them alongside to explain how important it is to build their character, be true to themselves, and be kind toward others? Do you know that when they speak poorly against another she reminds them that their words are tiny gifts, like presents, to be offered to one another? That when one is aching she takes a moment to teach empathy and understanding?

Your honor, I have witnessed them attached to her arms when they were supposed to go to their father's house. The smallest has said his father is angry to often and it is hard to talk to him. The eldest is afraid of hurting his father's feelings and has spent car rides home with him being yelled at, looking out of the window and trying not to cry. When a dog bit the youngest one while at his father's friend's house, the little boy in pain did not cry because he felt he had to be tough around all of the men and boys, and surrendered once at home with his mother. They are young, they have the ability to remain gentle if they are taught the blessing of such a balance. The youngest does not want to play contact sports as much as he wants to be the architect of cities made of bubble gum chimneys and candied bricks. He has notebooks filled up with images and stories pulled straight from his imagination and if cultivated right, he will revel in his creativity and it will be a blessing to the entire world as he grows. Their mother knows this, she knows them, the communicate, they listen to each other, they tell stories, they sing, they dance throughout the house.

I carry these images, memories, moments in my heart and will try to keep them all in mind when a lawyer approaches me and tries to manipulate facts into fable. When I look upon the father in the court room I will think of the brilliant, shining eyes of the small boys and carry love in my heart and speak from a place inside of me that believes in truth and fairness. By tomorrow morning's end, hopefully the judge will modify the parenting time so the majority is with their mother, who is carefully watching them and nourishing them, instead of in the care of their father who sits them in front of television screens, buys his way into their hearts with name-brands and fancy toys, and disappears for weeks at a time on drugs. Hopefully the evidence will speak loudly to the judge and before we even open our mouths, he will see through all of the documentation that one parent is there to avoid paying more money and the other is there out of sheer concern for their well-being.

I share this because too often we talk intensely about the lack of fairness in the legal system without tracking it down to roots, to families, to mothers who are working so hard to teach their children and nourish them, who are entangled in systems that still consider a mother's tears to be a sign of weakness. Tomorrow, the father will have a lawyer because he can afford it and my friend will have me and a few other women testifying on her behalf refusing to feel intimidated by legalities, knowing in our hearts and minds the beauty and enrichment she offers her children and speaking only from that reality.

if the core of my being is compost, my words will be gardens which bloom as I speak.


JaniceW's picture

Sending you light and love

Mei Li,
I am at a loss of words to support you. I know the judicial system operates in an emotional vacuum and often the facts are buried by the legal representative who knows how to best manipulate the law to his/her advantage. Often, what is fair, right and common sense is removed from the equation as children with hearts, minds and souls are reduced to chattels to be sorted and divided.

As I write this, I despair as I know that my words are of no solace. I will hold you in my thoughts as although the lawyer has advised against showing emotion, I hope that the judge will cut through the rhetoric and see that this is a case of humanity, of love and passion for the welfare of two young boys whose future lies in his/her hands. Please keep us posted.

Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower
Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

~Rainer Maria Rilke

Mei Li's picture

Thank you so much for this

Thank you so much for this poem...after court we came home and I curled into a ball in bed and cried for a little while. The truth of the nature of the relationships between the mother and father and children were distorted, not heard, bypassed. I watched my friend struggle for the right words, the right sentences, the right cross-examination and the exhusband's lawyer speaking to her as though she were small, incompetent. We do not know yet what the ruling will be, but it seems very possible that the schedule he wanted will be put into place. After the hearing ended, my friend walked fast from the court room and took four flights of stairs down to the parking lot. The whole way home I wrapped my arms around her from the backseat and placed my hands over her heart as she cried. My heart felt broken too as I love her boys very much and spend time with them daily when she has them. The smallest is a tender, brilliant, creative boy who is often overlooked by his father. The father's method of communication makes it hard for the boys to communicate honestly and tenderly with him, so many issues they experience are often swept under the rug.

My friend will embrace whatever change to the schedule is made, as she cannot control it either at this point. The father wants to further cut his child support payment basically down to nothing and my friend is already struggling as a full-time student, worker, and mother. She pays all insurance for them, has attended every school conference, and the amount of love and support I witness between them daily should be allowed more than just one weekend a month and a few short hours after school days. Even though they are not mine, I too felt so broken at the thought of not being able to hear them every day singing and playing throughout the house, and at their father's instead in front of a television. She is so strong though and I wanted to commend her for representing herself, as she didn't have any other choice in this matter. This morning she felt so confident, and I know as we drove away she felt defeated and small.

My friend is in her garden now, digging a twenty foot trench and filling it with new manure, soil, seeds. Planting, seed by seed, a new life, new possibilities, new hopes, new dreams. Soon purple, red, blue ears of corn will rise with morning glories, dill, mint, arugula will fill the front beds and her home will continue to be a sanctuary for her boys - whenever she may have them. I just do not understand how a father with such an intense background of violent behavior, drug addiction, and lack of interest in the lives of his children can look so much better in court just because he bought someone to speak for him.

Hopefully, at the end of this day, as the judge looks over all evidence and considers all information...he will make a decision that will be the best for the well-being of the children - whatever the decision is, I know to continue to be a pillar of support for her and I am reminded, yet again, how important it is for women to hold each other up and continue to push forward.

"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

Sharese's picture


What a wonderful last line Melissa.

You, as always, put into words what the heart song sings. I pray, hope, and PUSH the energy of love toward these young people and their mother. It will not just be the women in the court room but the women here on world pulse that will be hoping and sending love and courage.

I agree with you that it is so important to get to the ROOT of the injustice system. The fact that the value is placed on who can spend the most money to "win" instead of seeing the HUMANITY of the people who are in the room. It is like when something is said then it is "struck from the record" as if never spoken. But everyone in the room heard it. The justice system treats itself like a machine though- with no room for human error, yet is facilitated by humans who will error- and whose lives are affected DIRECTLY by the decisions of the court. And whose emotions and esteem are affected but what is happening immediately.

I am rambling now- I know. But the jist is this> thank you for writing this and bringing to light the injustice that the justice system in the US perpetuates. And I am sending much love and many positive vibrations to your friend, yourself, and the women who are there to support the woman.

Also- you should keep what you said about the mother and boys somewhere special, it would be a beautiful gift to them one day....

In love, peace, and in true sisterhood,


Mei Li's picture

I enjoyed your rambling and

I enjoyed your rambling and thank you for it. As you will read in the above comment...the time spent in court today was a bit heart shattering. I was trying to remain strong for her, but once we returned home I had to excuse myself from the back porch, not even knowing that tears were welling in my eyes. We could have spent the day talking about how unfair it was, but tried instead to remain positive. Tried, instead, to take a trip to the nursery and pick up pale pink petunias and leeks, kale seeds, and soil to spend the evening digging and preparing for a new season, a new change. Although we are both accepting of what is and open to what will be, it does not mean that the heart does not break for a moment. I saw it in her eyes all day and know she has had many quiet releases. The boys have no idea about the change that is about to come, that they will be uprooted for even longer amounts of time from their mother's home where they have a true community of neighbors, friends, loved ones always happy to embrace them. It is not that the father is a horrible man or a terrible father, but he does not supply his children with the connections they need at the ages they are to be able to grow, nourish, remain healthy, and learn to communicate well - their emotions, their issues, their lives. The best any of us can do is be truly present with them when they are here, accept whatever will be as it is, and spend the time together tenderly.

I am sure that I will share the responses to the post with her and that it will uplift her through this, so thank you so much for taking time out of your moments to respond so sweetly, so thoughtfully.

In sisterhood,


"...our compassion is the practice of unconditioning." Jakusho Kwong Roshi

William62's picture


Best wishes to you in your future; there is lots to be done. Keep up the good work

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative