Revised Essay: February 27, 2006
(A/N: I haven't met Sam Waterston (Jack McCoy, Law & Order)—but I merely wanted to thank him for how he inspired me to go to law school and how that goal is helping me struggle through a very difficult situation.
Please read Ayesha's Endorsement in the Review section. She has met Sam Waterston and believes he is the epitome of kindness. Perhaps... I will give him the benefit of the doubt.
However, I sent the essay below in letter form to Mr. Waterston with my original drawing signed and dated, dedicated to him. Yet the letter and my original artwork came back two months later: unopened and marked "Refused." -Reni)
"First you've got to decide what you want...then you've got to fight for it!" - Lantern Hill.
I Had A Cat Named Sammy Once...(named for Sammy Davis Jr...)
But this editorial essay is about someone else—a living example of what one light in the darkness can accomplish—Sam Waterston. For those who aren't familiar with his name, he plays Jack McCoy on Law & Order. (Still Samuel is my favorite name—from Shema & El, "G-d has heard.")
Waterston also performed in a play called Travesties last May. Would rather have seen him perform in that play, but I was stuck in my basement, studying for the Law School Admission Test, alas.
I read Waterston's article concerning Chelsea's Oasis and wish I could see the chapel. I love old chapels—such a peaceful place for prayer. Sam thinks so, too—said so in his editorial. He mentioned how the seminary wants to erect a building that will match the one across the street—which makes sense. I'm wondering if the new taller building would make the seminary feel even more secluded, like another tall soldier guarding the area. Yet would help if I could view the architect's plans and see this ugly building the seminary wants to tear down.
However, restoring historic landmark buildings should always be first. So many historic buildings have been torn down here—like several of our historic theaters and that just breaks my heart, especially the one that had a beautiful mural depicting cowboys, buffalo and all. I watched so many movies in that theater. Now a parking lot exists there for no apparently good reason. The only thing saved were the seats, which were placed in the oldest theater preserved—no more mural. (See December 18, 2005—Op-Ed Contributor: Chelsea's Oasis by Sam Waterston in the New York Times )
Would you believe—as a writer I began studying Sam's films last November after I stumbled upon a T.D. Waterhouse commercial, while studying faces for a novel character and couldn't recall why Waterston looked so familiar? Then I found the L&O reruns on TNT and there he was. I also found the Raised Eyebrow fan group and a lot of really nice folks. And I bought several of his movies over the net and haven't yet watched them all.
I do remember seeing one of his films—Miracle At Midnight on television, but missed the mini-series The Nightmare Years. Being of Jewish descent, I cherish having copies of those two films in particular. There is a book called Witnesses to War by Michael Leapman, with a picture of a thin girl, Auschwitz number 26947. With features too much like a cross between my brother and I, her face haunts me like an unknown relative. I need to find her story.
Yet another film I purchased, Lantern Hill—the back of the tape box has a quote: "First you've got to decide what you want...then you've got to fight for it!" Although said by another character in the movie, itseems to fit Sam's philosophy as well. Last year watching him play Jack McCoy again brought back an old desire to go to law school and I found something to fight toward—after losing my only known brother who used to love acting in theater. He was charming and funny—always trying to get me to laugh. He taught me how to play straight man and we had a blast with our routines as kids.
Then something very curious happened last November—I sensed this vivid urge to pray for Sam. Yet I learned to listen to that still small Voice which more than 15 years ago saved me from a man with a sawed-off shotgun while I worked nights at a 24-7 convenience store.
The first time I ever prayed for Sam Waterston was several years ago, after seeing the scene of Jack McCoy confessing to Serena Southerlyn about his friend Tommy who refused last rites from a priest. "God forgive me if I'm wrong...I'm still following after Tommy." Those words sent chills up my spine the first time the episode aired because he gave so much of himself in that scene. He might not have won an award for that scene, but Sam influenced my life for the better that day—and that should say more than a bronze statue ever could.
There is a quote of Sam's—not sure when or where he made this. Yet the meaning has made a difference in my life, especially right now: "There is no problem that cannot be improved by effort, and no effort that is too paltry to be worth undertaken."
Yet some problems are more nightmarish than others—such as small town politics—when my husband was arrested for a crime that never happened. I'm a witness to these alleged events and after I bailed him out...he cried all night—a broken-hearted man.
My husband is a kind and gentle soul whose mother's family escaped the Holocaust! He loved me out of a lot of bitterness and fear about men in general, when there were men I knew who did have very bad habits.
Our nightmare actually came about because my husband and I had the audacity to question the controlling decisions of the leadership of an interfaith congregation we were attending. Board members just took some oil and dubbed the leader a rabbi. Anyone who asked questions were subjected to scrutiny. Two families became the leadership's latest victims when they chose to manipulate people and events to please their viewpoint. (actually would be rather sad, if it wasn't so serious...)
Several days after my husband's arrest, I just lied down in my backyard from the shock, but I finally realized what Providence had in mind-I wouldn't have been able to handle this situation at all without the intense study in logic required to pass the LSAT (Thanks, Sam & Jack for the inspiration) and a profound eternal peace.
And this part of Sam's quote: "...no effort that is too paltry to be worth undertaken" continues to remind me how even seemingly insignificant efforts to remember and stand up for my husband's innocence are making a difference in traveling through this dark valley to the light of hope ahead.
From an article calling for balance: "The abuse of a child...is a despicable crime, for which every parent and law enforcement officer ought to be on the alert. Children, the most vulnerable members of society, depend on the care and wisdom of adults to protect them. It's because of that responsibility that so many state and local governments have been tightening laws... But as they go about drawing their security circles around children, these governments need to watch that they don't overreact...
...Public outrage and sorrow accompany cases of child...abuse. Governments should do all they can to prevent these crimes—and some of the predators do appear to be beyond current methods of rehabilitation. But the outrage shouldn't get in the way of trying to help the majority of abusers...redeem their lives." (Christian Science Monitor, June 14, 2005 )
Yes, there is a need for stronger laws to crack down on crimes involving children, but neither at the expense of the innocent nor those who can be redeemed. A neighbor told me a story. His friend is a schoolteacher whose only crime was trying to help out an irresponsible, immature foreign exchange student accusing everyone of child abuse who simply asked her to follow a few simple rules for her own safety. Even though she had falsely accused another family, my neighbor's friend was convicted on hearsay evidence with no chance by the defense to cross-examine the exchange student who went back to Sweden.
This is my first real effort to share our living nightmare outside a "barely civilized town," as a visiting New Yorker phrased it—to combat with a little reason the paranoiac fear over these kinds of crimes. The quote from The Monitor is the only article I could find on the web that even remotely addressed the paranoiac-like imbalance permeating legal decisions in some areas of the country.
As an actual former child victim, I pray that standing up for my innocent husband will add to the voice of this article. That my efforts will eventually add incentive toward a more balanced approach and help reunite me with my husband—something I wouldn't have found the courage to try without Richard Belzer's contagious, life-saving smile and Sam Waterston's emancipating words of inspiration.
Kind Regards in a Season of Miracles,
"There is no problem that cannot be improved by effort, and no effort that is too paltry to be worth undertaken." -Sam Waterston. -
Re-Edited: Feb 27, 2006.
©2006 by Kat-Renée Kittel. All Rights Reserved. Please be kind and give credits to author. Thanks.