Americans fulfill their civic responsibilities in two ways, voting and jury duty, said the court clerk to the pool of potential jurors gathered in a courthouse waiting room on a cool, windy Monday morning last week. This particular gathering of citizens from Bibb County, Ga., would be able to do both in consecutive weeks, she noted.
One judge said the jury process is a “foundation, a cornerstone of our system of justice.” The clerk added that many cases are resolved by the knowledge that we are hanging out upstairs ready to fill the jury box as needed.
No one seemed thrilled about being in the drab courthouse for an undetermined period of time rather than going about usual tasks. But my resolve was to face the unpredictable experience with as much openness as possible and to look for some life lessons.
So, here is what I observed and learned.
First, rarely do I have the chance to spend significant time in extended conversations with such a wide cross section of the local citizenry. Our tendency is to gather with people most like us. Getting acquainted with people I would have not known otherwise was a worthwhile experience even if some work backed up.
Second, breaking routines is not all bad. So much of our living is habitual. Going to different places at different times can remind us of the value in using the gift of time well.
Third, apparently, the services of a Baptist journalist are not highly sought on juries in criminal trials. Spending three days at the courthouse and not being seated on a jury has not created a long-term feeling of rejection however. My guess is I was scratched just after the criminal lawyer in our group.
Fourth, and finally, jury duty requires a lot of patience. Such patience remains a virtue I have not yet acquired.