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THE NICEST STRANGERS



"You sure are smart for only having a sixth grade education," I was told many times.

"Mr. Kiser, there is not one single member of this community that does not respect and admire you," they would tell me.

For the very first time in my life I would walk around and people would shake my hand. Almost every morning someone would greet me with a cheerful "good morning" as I jogged around the track.

Gentlemen from every walk of life, both rich and poor, would come to me for advice. If they could not afford to pay I always choose to help them for free. No one was ever turned away.

My small legal office was located in the corner of the law library. (There were hundreds of files, stacked two feet high, on the wooden tables. Each told the life story of each and every person that I had helped with their appeals. I watched and listened for hours as grown men cried while they talked about their children and their families.

There were times when I was representing as many as 100 people at a time. The legal cases brought to me were very difficult and seemed never-ending.

This was the first and only time in my life that I had ever been shown any respect and admiration by other human beings. My youthful years spent in a Jacksonville, Florida orphanage had broken any spirit that I might have had as a little boy. I came into this community a broken man, a confused young man who had never known the feeling of self respect, much less any feelings of self worth. I was a young man full of hatred and a man who felt nothing inside except a never-ending spite for the world in which he lived.

"Mr. Kiser, do you need any cigarettes, Sir? Would you like some candy, Sir?" I would be asked.

"Sir," was not a word that I was used to hearing when it came to someone speaking to, or about me. "Bastard" and "Illegitimate son-of-a-bitch" is how I was addressed most of my life in the orphanage. How wonderful it was to finally feel that I had worth to the world.

Yes, some of the nicest people in my life were people that I met when I was in my late teens and early twenties. Many of these people, because of their kindness and respect towards me, helped me mold myself into the man that I have become today. Many of these strange, unusual and forgotten people taught me the meaning of kindness, respect and hard work. There is not one of them that I was not honored to represent. Some of the kindest people that I met along the way, I met while learning to become a jail-house lawyer, years of learning and educating myself while serving my own sentence at the Federal Penitentiary at Lompoc, California.



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