Kindness Is Key Ingredient to True Success

Contributing Author: Joyce E. Dudley, Former District Attorney (Retired), Santa Barbara County (CA)

Photo by Dino Reichmuth on Unsplash

Shortly after I graduated from UC Santa Barbara, my father died of pancreatic cancer.

My father, Morton Harvey “Morty” Allerhand, had just turned 56.

Morty was the son of immigrants, and his formal education ended in high school. He looked like Paul Newman, and his laughter (often beginning before his own jokes ended) quickly filled most rooms I shared with him.

Morty wasn’t much for abstract conversations, but he loved to smile and make others laugh.

He was a hard working, and at times a successful New York restaurateur. At other times, he was in debt. Sometimes, the only “institution” that would lend him money was the Mafia.

Morty was also a great father who made me feel, at every age, respected and loved.

Throughout our short 22 years together, wrapping my arms around his ample belly and pushing the side of my face against him was my happy place.

Unlike most kids, at every age I unabashedly adored my father.

When I was a child, I followed him around and often gifted him any object I could wrap with any form of paper.

From the time I was 7, I began going into work with him on Saturdays; it was there that I was rewarded with my favorite name/title ever. It was “Little Morty.”

When I was 21, he was given 6 months to live. Soon after that, he spent most of his time in the UCLA hospital.

It was there I would often stay with him on both Tuesday evenings and again on the weekends. I did that not to be a “good daughter,” but because being with him, especially during those fragile days, was my greatest joy.

When he died in 1975, I was devastated and overwhelmed — so much so it seemed I dreamed about him every night for two years. Most of those last years’ dreams focused on me trying to call him from a pay phone.

After 1976, I didn’t dream about him again … until 1990.

It was the night before my first day as a Santa Barbara County deputy district attorney.

In my dream, he appeared in a meadow some distance away, and I knew he’d only be there for a matter of seconds.

I immediately started running toward him, as quickly as I could, while yelling out all my “accomplishments” that I was sure would make him proud …

“I’m happily married … four kids … a lawyer …”

As I was doing so, I was focused on his face; his expression never changed.

He did not look proud.

I finally arrived and stopped right in front of him.

He didn’t reach out for me, instead he asked me a question …

“But, are you kind?”

Photo by Stefano Valtorta on Unsplash

I was frozen — that was never something we talked about before he died.

Cognizant of our remaining seconds together, I wanted so much to make him proud, but I had to consider my true answer to his difficult and complex question.

Before I could, he made a statement — “Because that’s all that matters on this side” — and then he disappeared.

He left before I could answer his question or hug him.

When I woke up, I remained sad and frustrated.

At the end of my first day at work, I asked a judge, Judge Arnold Gowans, if I could speak with him. He invited me into his chambers.

“Is it possible,” I asked him, “to be an excellent DA and still be kind?”

Without missing a beat, Judge Gowans smiled and said, “The best ones are.”

Judge Gowans and my Dad were right: Kindness matters, maybe above all else.

This op-ed was originally posted in Noozhawk on April 14, 2023.

Joyce Dudley is the retired district attorney of Santa Barbara County.

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