“Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t … you are right (Henry Ford).” If you saw that scrawled on a dry erase board Monday, May 2, you were most likely in the court room of Portsmouth Municipal Judge Steven Mowery.
Mowery says he posts the sayings to try to alleviate some of the anxiety that just naturally comes with being in court.
“Even if it’s a traffic ticket, people that try to do good things and try to do the right thing, which is most people, walk in here and it’s an intimidating situation,” Mowery said, seated in his modest office, just off his court room. “In a sense they’re a captive audience – they have to be there to deal with their business and there’s some wait time as they wait for lawyers.”
Mowery has begun another practice. He plays classical music while waiting for lawyers to arrive.
“The white board has been a part of me since I was a young man. Even in my college and my high school notebooks and my law school notebooks, I used to write mantras or things that were important to me,” Mowery said. “Daily mantras are things that would give me some strength and I felt that, in a court room setting, it would be good to touch maybe somebody with a thought that they could walk out with.”
Mowery said, when his children were younger, he would always drop them off at school with a – “carpe diem (sieze the day).” Mowery’s son remembers another quote from his father – “success in itself must be one’s own peace in the head when completely alone.”
In short, Mowery’s motive is to give people strength when they face the daily battles of life itself. If you turn his law practice budiness car over, you’ll find some Shakespeare – “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.”
The practice began a couple of years ago and has caught on with those who are in that court room for one reason or another.
Some of his favorites are – “Do it or do it not. There is no try;” “Everyone that you meet and everyone that you encounter is fighting a battle that you know nothing about. Be kind always.” Another of Mowery’s favorites is the final Tweet of the acclaimed poet Maya Angelou, who tweeted – “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”
“That’s what life’s about,” Mowery said. “Everybody is carrying a bag of burdens.”
Do the mantras take people’s minds off the circumstances of being in court?
“I don’t know that in life we take our mind off it, but if we get something in life — if it’s a handshake or a pat on the back — a kind word or something that you can read that will give you peace for a moment, it helps the fight,” Mowery said. “I believe life’s a battle for everybody. There are ups and downs and so if you can find some strength and peace in something that you read, even if it’s a momentary thing, you might again think on it when things get tough.”
Mowery said there is not a lot of difference in people, just people’s circumstances,
“These people that come through the courts are just like you and I. They have just been dealt a different hand,” Mowery said. “What’s odd about life is that we’re all dealt a different hand and so the way you deal with that, there may be something in your life, in my life, in everybody’s life that takes them a different direction. If that’s a kindness or thought you can give somebody, that’s a pretty amazing thing.”
Mowery seems to have it all in perspective when it comes to dealing with those who come before him in his court room.
“There but for the grace of God, go I,” Mowery said. “I think about that when I’m on the bench all the time.”
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.