Williamson County’s Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace has had one simple motto during this current term, Kindness Matters. Despite being one of the busiest courtrooms in the state of Texas, these few words are enough to make a big difference, one person at a time.
Two years ago, Michael Sabra was in rather a hurry on his way home and got a speeding ticket. After paying the ticket and registering for a defensive driving class, he and his wife Lisa received news that she had an aggressive form of leukemia. What followed was heartbreak, turmoil and a move to Houston for medical treatments and a bone marrow transplant. “Needless to say, defensive driving was not something I was concerned about, let alone a priority,” Michael says.
When he failed to complete the class, he was required to go before Judge Bill Gravell to explain why he had not submitted his paperwork. “The Judge could not have been nicer,” he says. “Most people’s exposure to judges is only what they see on television and he was very empathetic. He gave me a two-year deferral on the class so I could focus on my wife and my two baby boys, not to mention the financial burden of living separately and all the health care bills.”
Michael says Lisa fought like a warrior for 15 months but succumbed to her illness in March 2016. In March 2017, his two-year deferral was up for defensive driving and he finally sat down to take the course. “Not being slapped with a large fine, plus being able to spend even those seven hours with Lisa while she was alive, meant the world to me. Now, a year later, I am focusing on getting back on my own two feet and caring for the kids. I’ve had some time to get used to the new normal.”
When he completed the class, Sabra sent a handwritten note to Judge Gravell to express his appreciation for his compassionate ruling. “It was a special moment for me and I am grateful to Michael for reaching out,” Gravell says. “Being a judge can sometimes be a lonely job. We have the burden of making 50 percent of the people in our courtrooms angry or unhappy. It’s nice to know when we’ve made a difference.”
Michael said, “Even battling cancer, our family and friends were all in a tough place, but Lisa always said small things mean a lot. Even now, I can recall all the small gestures people made for me when she was sick and after she was gone. All those small things really do mean a lot when the chips are down. Little things add up to push you along.”
“Judge Gravell probably had no idea I was raising two boys who just turned 4 and 3. And he couldn’t have known what six hours for a class and another hour for the paperwork would mean to be able to spend time with Lisa I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Time was incredibly precious and what he did for me meant a lot.”