This letter is dedicated to Charles Thomas McDaniel although most people knew him as C.T. McDaniel, the arraigning Judge or Justice of the Peace. I recently found out that Judge McDaniel passed away. Although my heart mourned for his family, I felt a personal sadness in my heart, but at the same time a sense of peace. You see my family, and I have had a little history with Judge McDaniel. He was a great man with a good heart.
When I first met Judge McDaniel, I was working at Sonic Drive Inn in Archer City, TX. Before I came to the knowledge that he was a judge, he was one of my regular morning customers. He came by every morning around the same time, 8:30am, and always ordered the same thing: a regular coffee, no cream, no sugar, and a few cubes of ice.
Every morning he would make it a point to acknowledge me as a person and not just a worker getting his coffee. He always asked how I was doing and if he noticed I was upset or not as "chipper", as he would call it. As usual, he would always say something positive just to make me crack the slightest smile. One day he saw me really upset as he drove up. I was really just having a rough morning, and even though he didn't know, nor did he ask what was wrong, he told me some words that stuck with me. He said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." I didn't think much of it then but over the years that quote pops in my head during moments when I feel defeated, and it helps "chipper" me up.
He didn't talk to many other workers the way he did with me. We would converse. I would ask how he was doing; he would say "some days are good and some not so good, but I'm still here." I remember the first time I saw him in an upset mood. I asked him if he was ok and he said he was in a lot of pain. I told him I would pray for him and he just looked at me in shock, so I asked him do you pray? He responded with "yes I do, I just didn't expect to hear that from such a young lady." I smiled and asked him what he meant by that, and he said because the younger generations these days do not understand the meaning of prayer. I agreed, and then he asked me, "Do you understand the meaning of prayer"?
At that moment I realized I never thought about it like that, but I responded with "To me, prayer comes in many forms. You can pray at night before bed, in the morning when you wake up, and unfortunately, many people only pray when they feel like they need something, I do all those, but I pray the most when I just talk to God like I am talking to you right now". He smiled at me really big and told me I was wise for my age, and I was too smart to be working at Sonic. He is actually the one who convinced me to look into colleges. He was a sweet man. He liked that I would talk to him, help him count his change, and would always make sure he had a good grip on his coffee so he wouldn't accidentally drop it and burn himself. Because he couldn't grip things very well, he was always very appreciative of that.
Over the next year or so, we had a few different encounters, and this is when I learned that my regular customer at Sonic was also the arraigning Judge and Justice of the Peace. I remember the first time he saw me in county jail, he looked so disappointed at me, almost like a grandfather would, which was kind of weird because I didn't know him outside of our every morning routine at Sonic. I remember when he arraigned me, he asked me what I was doing there. When he read my charges, he told me I needed to make better decisions, and set my bond just as he would set anyone else's. He was a fair and stand up man. There were many other legal issues I found myself involved in, and many times I just showed up to his office and asked to speak with him. He always made time to talk with me, but still kept it very professional, at the same time he did his best to speak to me in the same manner as when I worked at Sonic, "Accountability, responsibility, and the ability to make better decisions," he would always say, "You can't take back your mistakes, but that doesn't mean you have to repeat them. You always have the ability to change your life, and only you can do that. No one else can do it for you".
Not only was he good to me, but he was also good to my family as well. He was fair and just, and he did a great job as a Judge. He will be greatly missed by many people, but I know he's not in pain anymore. God has been calling many home, and although we don't always understand death, there is one thing we need to remember "To be absent from the body, is to be present with the Lord"- 2 Cor. 5:8. Cherish the time you have with your loved ones and never forget those who have had a positive impact on your life even if it was just for a season in life. Always be thankful to God for putting them in your path. Remember, we are not promised tomorrow, so LIVE, LAUGH, AND LOVE, and have a positive impact on others just as those who had a positive impact on you!