Justice, Mercy and Everything In Between
I spend a lot of time in the courthouses of Gaston and Cleveland Counties (NC) lately. Working for a property management company is never easy but the year 2020 has presented a lot of unique problems for people like us. Yep, there is this thing called Covid which has effected pretty much everyone - even people who haven't so much as sneezed since early spring. For some it's brought tragedy and to others it's just an enormous inconvenience. For still others it's an excuse. We manage almost 400 homes so we've got a pretty good mix of all the above as tenants.
We have tenants who have had Covid (yes, and recovered). We've had tenants who have lost their jobs because "non essential" businesses closed down. We've also had tenants whose income has been completely unaffected and haven't missed a beat. Unfortunately we also have tenants who have not only not lost any income but have profited from the situation (hello, Stimulus?) and have made the decision that since the Governor says they HAVE six months to pay for the month of June, that they should just go ahead and not pay that. And there's nothing we can do about it. For six months. There are still others who are totally taking advantage of everything they can and are sitting in homes for free just refusing to pay while they save up for something else. Generally these are the only ones we're taking to eviction.
Anyway, between the two counties we're in I've spent 8 days in court this month. Maybe that doesn't sound like a lot, but I do have other parts of my job that are now being neglected because I'm spending so much time preparing files, and then sitting in the courtroom. I was in the courtroom on Thursday this past week. I got there a little early because parking can be a challenge these days with so many people in and out of the courthouse. Until the specific courtroom opens you can sit out on the benches in the hall to wait, and in this particular courthouse masks are required and cell phones are allowed (until the sessions start, anyway). I was sitting there waiting and checking Facebook on my phone when I overheard a couple sitting at the other end of the bench talking and they said something about hoping the judge would actually listen to them. I glanced over at them and told them that Judge Jimmy was a really fair guy, very compassionate and always heard people out so long as they kept drama to a minimum. We started to talk. They were there to get possession of his house back. It seems that his ex girlfriend was living in it and trashing it and though they'd taken her to court a couple of weeks earlier and she was ordered to vacate, she was still there. She'd also filed some pretty ugly charges against him. This guy had never even gotten so much as a parking ticket in his life and now he was being accused of some pretty heinous things. I kept asking to make sure that they were at the right courtroom. It just didn't seem like something Small Claims would be hearing. They had been told in the Clerk's office to go to Courtroom 2B, and that's where we were sitting. We spoke for another few minutes and I could see how upset they were. The man was physically shaking and the woman was in tears. I asked if they'd like to have a prayer. So, we knelt in the hallway of the courthouse and prayed together that the judge would have wisdom and discernment and would listen to what they were saying. We prayed that the truth would be heard above all else and justice and mercy would be done.
The courtroom opened a minute later and we went in. As it turned out they were in the wrong room. They were supposed to be in 2D, not 2B and they slipped out to find the right room. My three cases were heard quickly and about fifteen minutes later I was on my way. I saw them sitting outside of 2D where they'd been directed to wait since the courtroom was already filled (limited capacity due to Covid). We talked again for a few minutes and exchanged phone numbers and encouraged each other. Later in the day I got a call from her - the judge had listened to them. He'd seen what was going on and ruled in their favor. They would have a sheriff remove the ex from the home and he could have his house back. They were overjoyed at the small victory and encouraged that the judges who were to hear his next cases might also be open to listening.
This was the Holy Spirit at work all the way through - them sitting in front of the wrong courtroom so we could pray together - they are now praying together on a regular basis and thanking God for even the tests and trials they're going through. The Holy Spirit no doubt opened the ears and the heart of the judge in their case, letting the truth shine through. It was humbling and awesome to be allowed to participate in this day.