A recent letter from the Clerk of the Courts enlisting me for jury duty landed with a thud and a groan in my mailbox. Without fail, I always feel inconvenienced, intruded upon and put-out when I get the summons.
This abrupt intrusion always triggers my "ritual of reluctance and resistance," beginning with a call after 6 p.m. to the clerk of the courts, listening to the recording telling me to report tomorrow morning, and being threatened with possible arrest if I fail to comply. At the appointed time, I drag myself there with books, gum, coffee and a bad attitude to get me through this waste of my time.
At the cattle call we all register, fill out a slip, receive the jury instruction hand-out, and watch the introductory video. The clerk of the court calls out numbers, and names, and every time I end up in the jury box awaiting the instructions of the judge, greetings from the attorneys, and their questions to us. Beneath the "good and respectful citizen" mask covering my face I am thinking that this is a colossal waste of my time.
And then, every time, it happens that I suddenly feel and experience what it is I have been asked here to do, and why. I see the enormity, and the beauty, of what I am participating in and it never fails that I am pulled (or better "fall") into my role and begin believing strongly in what I am doing and what is going on. At this point, I get emotional inside and participate completely and sincerely as it becomes fascinating, important and my patriotic duty.
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What is it about actively participating in democracy, like this, that gets to me every time? And why is it that whenever I am asked to give of my time in the daily machinery of our democracy, I respond initially with such selfishness and immaturity?
I would prefer starting this at the end of this story, rather than the beginning, because at the conclusion I feel like a respectable and grateful citizen of this great country, rather than the selfish, self-centered, embarrassing one I am when the call to citizenship first arrives.