Joy in Jury Duty

A month ago, I got a jury duty postcard. For many years, this meant panic time.

This year, when I’m working on a project called Citizen Joy, I had to untangling my habitual reactions. “No, I won’t panic, I won’t rail against this unfair disruption of my life, I won’t try to get out of it. Instead, I will find the joy in jury duty.”

It worked. I showed up early, found a good parking spot and got a pre-court chai latte. In line, I chatted with some nice folks as we waited to go through security; in the big room, I enjoyed sitting with a true cross section of Alameda County and admired the staff for being both kind and efficient. Even the orientation video rocked.

Then the judge came down from his chambers and, as he outlined the timeline, I slowly realized that I’ll need to cancel plans I was really looking forward to, and even loss out on some paid work.

“Oh, hell no! This citizen stuff sucks.”

I was shocked at how quickly I was willing to abandon my core values when they became inconvenient…but I was still righteously offended at this huge inconvenience.

Jeff doing jury duty

I tried to calm down.

“Less than a month ago, Jeff, you were singing the praises of twelve brave jurors in New York and now you want to weasel out of your small part of the process?”

That did the trick.

Jury service is at the heart of our justice system; the heart of our democracy is jury service and voting. As the training video says, “…ideals are made real only if individual citizens are willing to uphold them.”

Citizen joy, civic duty, ain’t easy, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the alternative. Embrace jury service; get out the vote. Embrace Citizen Joy. Save us from a government that will never ask us to uphold our ideals.