"When you saw the return address on the envelope, you probably didn't even want to open it."
This is how the judge welcomed us—75 people (including myself) who had entered the room silently a few minutes earlier—into his courtroom. He told us that he understood, that even he was called for jury duty on occasion, and that he had waited in that exact waiting room, had sat in this very courtroom.
In actuality, I didn't really dread opening the letter from the Superior Court. I figured I'd call the number given on my juror form the night before and learn via the automated system that I didn't need to come in. At worst, I thought maybe I'd have to appear in person to wait for several hours to be dismissed—but at least there would be free WiFi.
I waited several hours all right (and there was free WiFi), but the dismissal never came. Much to my horror, my name was called to report to Courtroom 17.
I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, it's a long trial (estimated to last until February 10th) and I think the lawyers and judge are working on putting together a jury all week. This is good news, because as the pool gets larger my odds will get slimmer—but for now, I'm still being considered a potential juror. Of the 75 people who entered Courtroom 17 after hearing their names, only about 20 (myself included) ended up admitting that they didn't have a hardship significant enough to prevent them from serving. Twenty of us. And 16 will be selected for the jury. You'd better believe I'm hoping the pool gets larger over the next few days before I have to report back to Courtroom 17 on Monday!
I came home after turning in my juror questionnaire somewhat bitter. I decided to get some laundry done while working remotely for the rest of the day. I lamented how much laundry there was to do. How can two people go through so many clothes so quickly?
Making a place for myself at the dining room table to work, I noticed the fortune cookie and decided its taste would match how I felt (mediocre at best), so why not? I found this gem:
Every burden is a blessing.
Gulp. This rings true.
While in Courtroom 17, I found incredible inspiration from a story the judge told to motivate us. He and his wife are international travelers, and in their travels, he always tries to check out the local court system. He shared that it never ceases to amaze him how few countries have trial by jury.
"Even in countries where you might expect otherwise," he said, "you'll often find that an appointed official is making decisions related to guilt, innocence, and punishment. I'm grateful I don't have that power, because if I ever got into trouble, I'd sure want to know that a jury of my peers would be hearing me out."
He made me feel proud to be an American, proud to be under the Constitution, proud that our Bill of Rights guarantees our right to a trial by jury. When he announced the expected duration of the trial at hand, all this pride slipped away into lamentation. The fortune cookie shook me back to my senses.
What a blessing it is to live in this country and have such rights. My burden is not only someone else's blessing, it is actually my own as well. It is all of ours. At a time when it is popular to criticize our country right and left, I am proud to be an American.
And the endless stream of laundry I complain about? How incredibly selfish. How incredibly blessed we are that we have enough clothes to go more than a day (or even several) without needing to wash.
I think perhaps the fortune is meant to be read differently than this; the way it reads, it may actually be saying that burdens make us stronger, and in that sense, bless us. I get that. That's true, too. But today I'm humbled by the things I have no right to find burdensome—the things that are blessings first and foremost.