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Look for the helpers

Judge Joe R. Diaz

As a Juvenile Court Judge I am often asked the question “How do you handle hearing and dealing with such depressing cases on a daily basis?”  It is true that on a daily basis I am called upon to hear and decide cases involving heartbreaking circumstances concerning the abuse and neglect of children.  If I focused solely on the depressing details of each case, I surely would suffer ongoing secondary trauma in both my professional and personal life. 

However, I once listened to an interview of Fred Rogers (“Mr. Rogers”), in which he described how his mother had often given him advice that “When you see something scary on the news, look for the helpers.  You will always find people who are helping.”  I was deeply moved by this advice, and have tried to apply it to my daily courtroom experience.  Although the facts that I hear can be troubling, each case also contains inspirational efforts by other people (“the helpers”) to remedy the tragedy and make life better for the children involved.  Rather than focusing on the tragedy, I focus on the heroism of the helpers, such as the CASA Volunteers involved in the case.  I find inspiration and hope in their selfless efforts and the compassion shown under extreme circumstances.  The selfless giving by the CASA Volunteer helps me leave the bench inspired.  Their efforts give me strength to confront and address the difficult issues raised in each case, rather than feeling helpless.  By drawing on the strength and dedication of the helpers, I improve my ability to maintain optimism in seeking solutions.  

It is true that it is easy to find and focus on tragedy in the cases we hear.  However, it is equally true that it is easy to find hope and inspiration by the kindness and dedication of the CASAs serving our children.  I choose to focus on hope, and I feel that I am a better judge as a result.  I thank all of the volunteers in the CASA program for what they do for the children, and what they have done for me.