The invitation to the party came from my friends, Ann and Alan Morrison. Their daughter, Nina, is an attorney for the Innocence Project, an organization that represented Morton, and many other people, who wound up in jail after wrongful convictions.
The day of the party, I was feeling as close as I get to depressed. I had just had two large transactions fall apart, and a third was on life support after a bummer appraisal. I had been downright whiny all day, so much so that I didn't dare go into the office (a No Whine Zone). And as soon as Michael Morton began to speak, I realized how completely blessed my life actually is.
In 1986, Morton's young wife was brutally murdered in their suburban Austin, Texas home while their 3-year old son was in the house. After a cursory investigation, the local prosecutor managed to send Morton to jail for life for this crime, mostly by hiding exculpatory evidence from Morton's defence lawyers. After 25 years in prison, he was completely exonerated when DNA evidence that had never before been tested led to the real murderer - who had killed at least one other woman while Morton was in jail.
So wow! I thought I had problems! When he signed my book for me, I told him about my crazy day and thanked him for helping me see how trivial my little drama was in the whole scheme of things. I was supposed to be at his book party that night.
In his talk and later in his book (I couldn't put it down), he spoke of the life he lost, of surviving 25 years with some really scary guys (real murderers) in a penitentiary in Texas, and of he great legal team that worked for many years to get him released.
And when I finished this great book, it was clear that Michael Morton gets gratitude. I marveled at little things that kept him going while in jail. He made the best of what little opportunities came his way, finishing his bachelor's degree and then getting a masters. He learned to write really well. He was grateful for the chance to watch new life forming as a family of birds moved under the eaves just outside of his cell windows. He wound up on a prison farm south of Houston for a while, complete with nasty fire ants and poisonous snakes. And he eloquently described how wonderful the dirt smelled after the rain.
During his 25 years behind bars, Morton never gave up on the strong belief that this "misunderstanding" would be set right. And after he was exonerated, he was amazingly generous to the bad actors who put him away. He came away from this unthinkable experience with an open heart, and he created a new life filled with love and new possibilities - and making a difference.
When I got home from the party, I was still a little wee bit down until I opened the front door to Willie the Labradoodle with his rapidly wagging tail and Millie the kitten who, the second I sat down, jumped onto my lap, began to purr and licked my hand. I have a funky but amazingly comfortable house, a real bed with soft linens, and a refrigerator full of delicious food of my own choosing. I can get into my car and head off to Skyline Drive or Rock Creek Park or Kansas, for that matter. Any time I want to, I can rev up my laptop and blog or check in with my friends on Facebook. I have an amazing extended family and a great circle of friends.
There is just so much that I was (am) taking for granted!
So where am I going with this? How will it impact my approach to real estate for next year? The next bunch of years?
There will be a downsizing in my future, and I'm looking for a large condo or cooperative complex where I would enjoy living and creating a niche. And I'm convinced that looking at everything through a filter of thanks has got to impact relationships with both clients and with colleagues. And putting together my 2015 business plan through the lens of gratitude is going to, well, interesting. And bottom line? It's going to include a whole lot of ways to say Thank You!