Last night I had the privilege of attending a show called "Woman To Woman" that featured The Outfit's own Laura Caldwell and hosted by Jen Weigel and Mary Long, two former WLS radio announcers. The show also featured Jennifer Connor, the head of her own company that sells mustard, and Shea Vaughn a fitness and lifestyle expert.
The topics ranged from fitness to health to happiness. At one point all three women were asked what advice would they give it they could go back twenty years. Ms. Vaughn said she would advise others to "be more present in the moment." She cautioned that life passes and the moments won't come back. Good advice for those of us who are always looking for the next hill to climb and aren't paying attention to the here and now. Ms. Connor suggested that you need to follow the signs in your life that will lead you down the right path, and her story of signs involving mustard and the biblical mustard seed story was funny and really inspiring. And Laura said she'd banish fear.
For those who aren't aware, Laura was instrumental in freeing a young man wrongfully held in Chicago's prison system for six years without a trial. Her latest non fiction book: Long Way Home: A young man lost in the system and the two women who found him tells the story of the trial. Laura and her girlfriend, criminal defense attorney Catharine O'Daniel, worked together to defend the man. He'd signed a confession after being tortured, and as Ms. O'Daniel said "99% of signed confession cases end up in a guilty verdict."
Last night Laura made it clear that as she sat at the table waiting for the verdict to come back the import of what she was doing hit her. The man's life would be forever altered and as she said, "if he was convicted and sent to death row I would have carried that enormous burden for the rest of my life."
After the show Laura and I went to have a drink with the other attendees. Now, let me tell you there are no better late night companions than those on The Outfit. We always have a blast and with Laura I also always learn something while having fun. We talked about life, love, men, women, children and our careers and hopes and dreams. Laura is involved with the "Life After Innocence Project" and will be taking it to the next level in order to assist even more individuals who are falsely imprisoned, freed and suddenly find themselves out in the world.
To think that this woman has any fear at all is a stretch for me to imagine. She took on an enormous responsibility that, as a civil litigator, she need have never faced, and she worked to save that individual. I told her exactly what I thought (and which a couple of glasses of wine gave me the courage to say) that she seems to be powerful and frankly unstoppable. I have no doubt that her goal to take the Innocence Project to the next level will succeed just as I have no doubt that she will continue to banish fear. Laura was one of the first writers in the community that I met when I was starting out and I'm infinitely glad to count her as a friend. She's a rocket shooting upward and I'm grateful to be able to watch the blast off from the viewer's seats. I can't wait to see what she does next.