Alison remembered vividly her father coming home from work and saying quite clearly to her that meticulousness was a virtue one that would hold her in good stead all of her life.
She remembered the day, as it was the occasion on which her father had entrusted her with the job of polishing his shoes. Her father worked in the city, his was an important job and his appearance was of the utmost importance to him. Alison had to polish his shoes each afternoon to a mirror polish; he would accept no other standard.
So Alison learnt the meaning and importance of being meticulous.
It became so ingrained within her that every task she undertook was underpinned with this same notion that she must do her best and that to not do so was akin to a dereliction of duty.
At school she stood out in her classes as every assignment and class task was completed with this same dedication. At university she won the University Medal an award she dedicated to her father who had passed away the year before she graduated.
All her life up until the completion of her studies had been an example of her singular focus of achieving to the best of her ability. Her spectacular tertiary results opened doors for Alison. A law degree had long been her ambition, a career in criminal law beckoned and she knew where that would take her. She imagined a life of wealth and privilege, big house, new car, family and influence.
Her life long ambitions were being realised and she was a happy girl each evening returning to the modest flat she rented. She knew that in the law firm she had gained her employment that she would start at the bottom and work her way up. She knew the drill as it were and no matter the mind numbing tasks she was given, which was often never ending filing she had such a focused work ethic that those around her were very soon impressed with the meticulous approach she took to every task she was issued with. Even making coffee for the partners was a feat she mastered with exacting care.
In her third year she met Darcy Mason. Darcy was a tall and handsome young man who came to the law firm seeking assistance with a project he was trying to establish in the ghetto part of town. Darcy was a very persuasive man and had convinced the town leaders that the ghetto could be converted to reasonable housing for the hundreds of poor folk who lived there.
As the law partners were busy men and not very interested in such a frivolous exercise they passed the whole case over to Alison. This was to be her first taste at an actual case where she had to administer the law. The partners had agreed that the Darcy Mason was not very lucrative to the firm and the lowly Alison who had impressed very one with her dedication would be the ideal person to take on this case. That the case was a tedious one they also thought would test her and probably lower her sails a little as they didn’t think Darcy had much chance in achieving his goal. This case would keep her well and truly busy they thought and out of their hair, as she could be a little pesky from time to time.
Needless to say Alison took on the case with great gusto. Soon however she encountered the red tape of officialdom. Progress slowed, Darcy was frustrated, with not just the case but officialdom in general. He argued as long as the council officials stood on their heels the poor suffered more and more.
Alison had to admit she had never known a poor person. Why would she have? Hers had been a life of privilege, she never really wanted for anything and her life had panned out well for her. She had her plans for the future; she was on a path she knew would reward her in all the ways her father had instilled into her.
One night Darcy took her on a trip into the ghetto. It would be good he had told her that she had some idea of the people and circumstances she was working for.
The trip shocked her. Before her were countless people rugged as best they could against the cold wind that blew viciously that night, sleeping in whatever way they could in whatever shelter they could find. Some in doorways, some huddled together in rooms, which may or may not have had windows or doors, the smell of human waste filled her nose she had never been so affronted in all her life.
That so many suffered like this moved her to tears. Men, women and children it didn’t seem to matter where she looked they were there, all ages pitted against the elements on this cold of cold nights.
So moved was she that within the week she has resigned from the law firm and taken up with Darcy the cause of these people. Being the meticulous person she was Alison became the bane of the authorities. She campaigned for change, she lobbied the influential ones, she hounded the ones who in her opinion were slow to act.
Over the years things changed. Alison came to understand that change is gradual and was prepared to fight for that when at times she could have easily have given up.
Darcy had opened her eyes and her heart. She became as zealously meticulous in pursuit of housing for the poor as her father had been in teaching her the need to make sure his shoes shone every night.
Alison lived fifty years with Darcy among the poor, as their advocate, as their voice against the indifference of officialdom. Together they achieved new housing projects to house the poor, community groups to offer education and employment to so many.
Today she lay in her bed realising her end was not far away. The vision of her father came back to her as if it was yesterday. She thought of her dreams to be a big time criminal lawyer, inside she smiled at the pretentiousness she knew she possessed back then. She knew her life had been worthwhile, she knew her father would be proud of her as she had lived his wish to treat everything she did with a meticulousness that would result in excellence, from polishing shoes to housing the homeless and poor.
She felt Darcy’s hand grip her own and was pleased they had stayed together all these years, his love had sustained her when it seemed the impossible was all they could see in front of them. She doubted Darcy still understood the meaning of meticulous for where she was; he was all things that weren’t.
Opening her eyes one last time she saw him staring down at her, feeling his hand tighten, she closed her eyes and drifted off.