Tuesday, January 14, 2014

An Actress Goes to Court


When I had to go to jury duty, I was not feeling so happy. I walked into the courthouse and was escorted to a holding room. Two hundred chairs filled with people who visibly did NOT want to be there. The Wi-fi sucked. The vending machine was broken. They only had Coke, no Pepsi. Basically the worst thing EVER.

After five hours and a total binge fest on Checkers fries and a burger, I was summoned to go to one of the fifth floor court rooms. I was listening to the judge, but my back kind of hurt, the guy next to me smelled, and a closer view of the attractive attorney's ring finger told me he was married. With that piece of information retrieved, I was ready to leave.

Then, this really weird thing happened. The judge asked the defendant to stand up and greet us. He turned and, directly staring at me, smiled and waved.

Now, I have told this incident to a lot of people. When I tell them that that moment made me want to drop whatever else was going on in my life and serve as a juror on that case, the general response is that I was nuts.

So why did I do it?

First off,  I saw someone scared, embarrassed, and a bit shy. Do those feelings sound familiar? YEAH, they seem familiar to me too! I have them allllll time. They made me extremely aware of his humanity and our interconnectedness. I felt compassion for him and I wanted to help.

Secondly, pride and a sense of duty welled up inside of me. Hundreds of years ago, a group of people believed so deeply in the power of the individual that they made participation in government not only a right for every citizen but also a responsibility. Serving as juror is one of the most ultimate ways of embodying the American Dream.

I eventually was picked (yay!) and I served as Juror Number 5. We found him guilty of the charge. One juror cried. Another needed a beer. Others, including myself, didn't say a word and just left. I say I left because I was busy. To be honest, the whole thing left me with a lot to think about in a very private way.

Before I left though, I returned to the waiting room. My initial apathy had blinded me from noticing  that a huge sculpture hung from the ceiling. It depicted a man on a diving board that was being held down by a semi circle of twelve chairs. I felt bad for the man but I also realized that he was safe as long as those chairs were filled. From that moment on, I promised, that whenever I'm called, I would be there to fill one of those chairs for the sake of a fellow American, and I ask that you consider doing the same. You'll feel better about yourself, pinky swear.