Not sure if this is the right direction or not. Comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
The first car I ever owned I bought with my own money the summer before my senior year in high school. It was a red 1990 Honda Civic, five-speed stick, with about 120,000 miles on it. Nearly as old as I was, it seems to have been owned by a family that thought maintenance was a cuss word, but for five hundred dollars it was mine.
One Wednesday afternoon my mom asked me to pick up something at the grocery store after I got off work, which I was more than glad to do because it was a good excuse to drive somewhere even though it was raining. As I drove into the parking lot I noticed an old man who was missing his right arm standing near the front door. I had seen him around before, walking up or down the road presumably between where he lived and the store. He was still there as I walked through the drizzle to the door, and for a few seconds we caught eyes. But I just walked on, passing him as I entered. I bought whatever it was my mom had sent me to get, lettuce and tomatoes I think, and headed back to the car. As I left the store, he was still standing there. “Got time to give me a ride home,” he asked as I started to walk past him.
I’m not sure why I just didn’t say no, but I didn’t. Instead I asked him where he lived and it turned out to be not that far out of my way. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. It was in the opposite direction of where I was heading, but I did have my car and it was raining and he was missing an arm and I figured I could get him there in maybe ten minutes…so I said “Sure, glad to.”
His name was Joe. When he got into my car he said he once had a car just like this one. “Well,” he said, “not exactly. Mine was a Fiat, and it was purple and white, and it was a station wagon, not a hatch back. But other that that, it was just like this one.” Then he laughed. He laughed the most genuine laugh I had ever heard. It wasn’t a big belly roll or some thing that made his whole body shake, it was just this kind of laugh that somehow conveyed pure joy. I had never heard anyone laugh like that before. The rest of the way to his house, he talked about his first car like he was the first teenager to ever own a car.
We got to his street I pulled into his driveway. Before he got out he thanked me and said he wanted to give me a tip. No thanks, I told him. I was glad to do it. “No really,” he said, “I want to give you a tip.” I again refused, politely. But he wouldn’t back off. “I want to give you a tip; here it is: Go to the gas station and put new air in your tires. The air in them now is old and smelly. Let it out and put in fresh air. You’re car will drive better than ever”. Then he laughed that laugh of his and I felt good even though I couldn’t tell if he was serious or kidding about the air. “Thanks again,” he said. I go to the store every Wednesday. Maybe I’ll see you around.”
The next Wednesday, there he was, standing outside the grocery store. I had intended just to drive past, just to see if he was there, but he saw me. I had to park and buy something, and he again asked me for a ride even though it was a sunny day. “You know,” he said, “I haven’t had a milkshake in years. You have time for a milkshake?” That was the first of many times we sat and talked.
He’d lost his arm in the war, Nam as he called it. Over time, I learned about his Army unit, the day he want off on patrol, and how he woke up three days later missing his arm. And how, after he had been released from Walter Reed he had decided to do the only thing that made sense at the time: “I went to law school. Became the first one-armed lawyer anyone had even known.” Then he laughed that laugh of his.
For the rest of the summer we met up every Wednesday. He’d tell me stories about being a lawyer. He started out as what he called the junior associate deputy assistant district attorney, which meant he got all the cases no one else wanted. After three years, he struck out on his own as a criminal defense attorney. I asked him why he did it, why he went from prosecuting people to defending them. His answer was one of the only serious things he ever said. He told me that the state had tremendous power, the power to take someone away from real life and put them in jail for years, maybe even life. “It’s a serious thing, putting someone in jail. The state should have to work at it. It shouldn’t be easy. If they want to take someone away from society, they have to earn it.”
Turns out Joe was pretty good at what he did, being a criminal defense attorney. He was so good he was granted a nickname by criminal and prosecutor alike: the one-armed bandit. If you were really in trouble, you wanted the one-armed bandit to defend you. If you were the prosecutor, you worried the one-armed bandit would steal away your sure-thing victory. Telling that story was, of course, accompanied by his laugh.
One of my favorite stories was about a client who needed to pay him in cash. The only problem was that Joe had to pick it up. The guy lived in a part of town that Joe was afraid to go to, but Joe had to go there anyway. “So I did the only reasonable thing. I rented a limo with tinted windows and went to pick up the cash like I was some kind of king. Of course, no one could see in so they had no idea who was in the car so I felt perfectly safe. When I go to my client’s place, he was standing out by his fancy Cadillac, which looked pretty minor next to my limo. Anyway, he handed me a bag of money -- $20,000 in fives, tens, and twenties. Then he asked me if I wanted to count it.” That’s when Joe laughed his laugh. “Can you imagine that, sitting in a limo counting out $20,000? No wonder he got busted.” He laughed again.
That was Joe. He taught me not to take things so seriously – unless they were truly important. He taught me to laugh at life and the situations you get stuck in, and to make the best of what you’ve got. And he taught me that while some things were worth fighting for, they need not get in way of finding the fun and joy in them. In many ways, he was the best friend I ever had.
(Personal Statement Examples, Advice, Critique, . . . )
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I think it's a great story, and a great start. I might suggest cutting it in half or so, and for the second half of your personal statement, talking about how he inspired you to become a lawyer, and what YOU want to do with a law degree. Good luck!!
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