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Saturday

Civic Duty and The Note

by J.B. Blocker                                                                                                                                              
Lana, red dress w/sign, David top row 3rd from the right
  Little David had a problem. There weren’t enough Valentines in the packet they had bought for his 4th grade class Valentines card exchange.  
  You remember, those shoe boxes with your name on it.  We wrapped them, drew on them, or decorated them leaving a slit on top to slide in those little cards. Those cards had a mixture of sentiments. You had to think about which ones were proper for your buddies as well as the 4th grade girls.
  It’s a big deal. At that age, it’s not about love. It’s about friends and mutual recognition. Those little cards have vague little notes that make the giver and the receiver feel better. It’s amazing what a little note can do to make someone feel better.(remember that!)
   There were a few more kids in his class than there were cards in the Valentines kit, and David didn’t want to leave anyone out.  

   Mom came to the rescue with a few extra ‘grown up’ cards.  Now, there’s another problem. “Who do I give the bigger ones to? Well, there are my friends. And Lana Rolf is nice. We almost have the same birthday and she’s always nice to everyone. That was easy.” 


   Lana showed her compassion at a very young age. One day, she came home worried about a teacher. “My teacher is all alone and her pet bird is sick.” reports a concerned little Lana. 

   Wanda recalls, “ I was so proud of her for being concerned about a teacher who was not very nice to her students.” 

   David and Lana were both good kids. Well behaved and polite. Thoughtful children. They were never really friends, but they were in home room together in 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th grade. There was always a silent but mutual respect. Their mothers were home room mothers and even worked on some local elections together.

   Years later, a boy in David’s English class mentioned his prom date was Lana Rolf, David’s sincere reply was, “Way to go!” 

The children would grow their separate ways.
   David the shy, tall, lanky athlete was late in filling out but would eventually grow to 6-5.  Even though leg injuries kept him from competing at higher levels, basketball was in his heart. After graduating from UTA, he would eventually become head coach at Irving MacArthur, a position he held for 16 years. 

  David married, had a daughter and continued to coach and teach. After completing his Masters at UNT the teaching spirit won out over coaching and so, David turned his attention to teaching Biology and working with student leadership programs. Competition took second seat to preparing students to succeed. 

   The Fire Truck Crew is a group of students who are chosen for their enthusiasm, spirit, and interest in serving the community. David is their counselor / cheer leader / guide. Although dozens of Juniors try out each year, only 12 are selected. They get their name from the restored 1928 fire truck that serves as their mascot.

   Lana was always the consummate student with an artist heart and a drive to be helpful. A member of I-teens , a group of teens who participated in local charity work, she would become the Treasurer of her Senior class and be voted Top Toy Tiger on her high school drill team.
   After graduating from high school the studious achiever headed for Baylor.  Competitions weren’t really important to her. Preparing to do her best and contributing to group causes was her motivation, not awards. The awards came anyway.  Lana makes the Deans List and graduates Magna Cum Laude from Baylor.    

  She begins her teaching career as an Art teacher in a Junior High school. Over the next two years she struggled to develop a resource for creativity. But at this school art was more of an elective class for study hall overflow.
  Mom recalls, “Lana would come to the house on weekends and we would try to come up with ways to inspire in a class with no budget. She spent her own money to buy supplies and struggled to make her class a fulfilling experience."
  Lana is meticulous and detail oriented in every thing she does and it showed in her art. To her, this was not an art class.  "Her father and I told her that if she wanted to continue her education, we would support her decision.” 
  Lana goes back to Baylor and law school where her always studious drive pushes her to complete her law degree.

   While David is coaching winning high school teams, Lana becomes a prosecuting attorney putting 12 years in to the Dallas D.A.’s office.  During that time her exposure to prostitutes and others with lives they can't seem to escape touched her heart. As a representative of the courts, she began working with programs to help them escape that life and find a path to a fulfilling one. 

  The STAR initiative is documented at this address:http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/the-future-of-the-city/archive/2010/05/victims-not-criminals/57187/
   

  David is devoted to his students and his own child. “I’m an Aggie by tuition.” beams the father of a school teacher.
  Judge Lana spends another nearly 15 years as an elected judge for the 203rd District Court where she runs unopposed as a conservative Republican when almost all the courts turned over to a strong Democrat surge in Dallas County in 2006. 

   “I saw it as a compliment and a sign of support when none of the many attorneys who enter my court wanted to replace me. I knew I had been doing a good job and running unopposed was of itself rewarding.” 

   That’s Justice Lana now. Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed her to the 5th District Court of Appeals, Place 4, a seat she has occupied since December 2, 2009. 

Was It Fate?  David takes it from here.
   "Seated among hundreds of other prospective jurors in the Central Jury Room of the Dallas County Courthouse that September morning, I settled in for what I anticipated was a long and uneventful day." 

   "Little did I know that my life would change dramatically, and for the better, because of the fulfillment of my civic duty.  Half an hour after arriving, seventy-five of us were called forward and instructed to report to a 7th floor courtroom where twelve men and women would be selected to hear evidence and decide the guilt or innocence of a man charged with capital murder. 

   "I was juror Number 57.  Once the judge began the voir dire, I had this feeling that I knew her, but not as the Honorable Lana McDaniel.  I studied her portrait hanging in the courtroom and then looked back at her on the bench.  Soon my feelings were confirmed when she stated that we had graduated from high school together and revealed her maiden name. 

   "Immediately, I made the connection.  When she posed the question, “Would the fact that we know each other affect your ability to serve as a juror in this case?” I wanted to respond with a rather clever, but true, statement like “Not unless you count that crush I had on you in second grade your Honor.”  Considering the serious nature of the courtroom, I thought better of it and replied with a rather milquetoast answer of “No, your Honor.” 

   "After our lunch break and before the jury panel entered the courtroom, I was quizzed by some of the female members of the panel about our possible social life back in the day.  One such question was “Did you and the judge date in high school?”  Before I could answer, I felt the attention of other jurors gathered in the hallway, waiting for my response. 

   "My answer of course was 'No,' as I was painfully shy and she was a leader on the drill team, a class officer, and Number 8 of 460 in our senior class. To me, she seemed way out of my league.  At the end of the afternoon, I was excused from service by the court and looked at the judge for what I thought would be the last time. "

Practice what you preach

   "That same evening, I realized I should practice what I preach.  As a high school teacher of a Student Leadership class, I impress upon my students the value of composing and sending a handwritten note of congratulations, appreciation, or encouragement to people in their lives.  

   "I wrote to the Judge, my former classmate, congratulating her on her achievement and wished her a long and distinguished career as a judge.  Not knowing that her marriage had fractured and dissolved as had mine, I never expected to hear from her.  Much to my surprise, the next week she called me at school and left a message of thanks for the note. She did not receive positive notes from jurors very often. 

   "Returning the voice message was not as simple as I thought it would be.  Because of a glitch in the telephone system, my calls kept going to a different judge, who thankfully finally got me connected to my former classmate. 

   "We finally visited for a few minutes and learned some about our past.  Now summoning all the manly courage I could muster, I asked her if she would like to meet for dinner sometime.   When her answer was 'Yes,' we agreed to meet for dinner the next week.   

   "The dinner was a surreal experience as we reacquainted over the course of three hours, and discovered among other things that we were in the same class four different years in elementary school.  We talked of elementary school and high school memories, of teachers we shared, and what we had done during the thirty-two-year interval."  

  "That dinner was the beginning of a whirlwind romance in which we were married almost six months to the day after that courthouse summons.  The romance has not slowed a bit."     
  "What was the lesson I learned from this experience?  I learned that every single day is a gift that is to be unwrapped and then treasured and that each day brings an adventure because you never know what is in store for you on that day. And I learned so much more. "
 

The Letter
   David had been teaching his leadership classes the value in developing the practice of sending complimentary notes and thank yous as part of their follow up procedures. Practicing what he has preached, David sent a note to the Judge. 
   Judge Lana receives the note, a first of its kind, and shows a friend. She explains that the note is from a former high school classmate who was recently excused from jury service. “Do you think I should call him and thank him for his kind note?” The friend asks "Is he cute?" Well, yes! "Well, just call him and thank him." 
   Lana knows from his juror card that David is divorced. Neither of them is looking. Both know something is missing. 

Dates to remember
   Each can tell you the day of their first phone call that led to their first date. They both mention the day of their first date, Oct. 7, 2004, that lasted three hours at the Cantina Laredo in Lewisville. It is still a favorite date spot. 
  Both remember Oct. 24th, the day Lana says, "I think I've fallen in love with you."   

  Lana had never done anything like that before. She couldn’t believe those words came out of her mouth. There was a nervous moment as she awaited David’s response. To David, those words were music. You can feel David shiver when he talks about that magic moment.  
  By Christmas, mothers Wanda and Billye are beside themselves wondering how the relationship is going and doing their best to push things along. They are now two happy mothers who light up when the others child is mentioned. In their minds, they have already completed this circle and it was time for the kids to cooperate!   
  On Valentines Day 2005, David brings a ring he had helped to design to their date and then proposed in front of the Mustangs at Las Colinas.  They were married in March.
  “We know that it was no accident that I ended up in her courtroom on jury duty.” 

   In the weeks just before they reconnected, Lana had started painting her house. She was going to sell the house that was no longer a home and try to fill in the missing pieces of her single life. 

  Looking back, the colors the former art teacher had selected were dull and drab. It's not that she was lonely! Not with two supportive sisters and devoted parents. She had her faith, she was dedicated to her responsibilities as a judge, and was leaning heavily on God's plan. Whatever that was.    
  As it turns out, she kept the house that had started to feel like a trap. There is a framed note to the judge hanging on the wall in the home of David and Lana Myers. The walls are painted in light pleasant colors. 
 

- J.B. Blocker is a media consultant based in Collin County in North Texas. Advertise with J.B. by calling 469-334-9962. Email: jbnorthtexas@gmail.com

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