The black and pink marble counter tops glistened against the dark oak benches of county courtroom B as I slouched in my jury pool chair. Secretly, I’ve always wanted jury duty for the fascinating social experiment of it all. However, the last week of school and 5 days before I leave for Haiti was not exactly the Law & Order episode I had in mind.
While irritated, I pledged to make the best of it. Hello, yes I am thankful for our rights and freedoms and let’s be real people, when they start charging people with being too awesome, I too am going to need an impartial jury of my peers.
So there I sat awkwardly smiling through an interrogation about some my deepest struggles in front of twenty imperfect strangers. Question after question for over twenty minutes about my sister the police officer, my father the alcoholic, the time I had to call protective services for a student, any interaction I had with the calling 911, and my time volunteering for the police department.
In what other world are you forced into public vulnerability for $10.00 a day and a 75-minute lunch break?
After my time in the hot seat, the prosecutor turned to the next juror and something strange began to happen. With each probe from the attorney I started to love the people sitting around me. I felt this weird and immediate bond as one by one they all had to share their painful memories. The late fifties woman who had been assaulted in college, the twenty-year old guy who had to call the police on his troubled sister, the nurse whose mom had committed suicide. We all had scars and bruises.
The next morning we gathered outside the courtroom to an entirely different atmosphere than the previous day. We had become our own courthouse Breakfast Club. We were laughing and teasing each other with ease like we’d known each other forever. I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to us?
To put it simply – we had connected.
Sure, we had the shared experience of being cooped up in a windowless room on a beautiful Minnesota spring day. More importantly, we knew each other on a deeper level than even some of our friends. We had all been vulnerable and honest about our journey.
It’s so easy to go through the motions of a relationship keeping to small talk about work and the weather. Yet, true connection only happens when we ask real questions about the heart – about hopes, dreams, and struggles. It happens when we allow ourselves to be seen, truly seen and show kindness and empathy when people share their most painful moments.
Connection and relationships are why we’re here. Yet it seems many of us are so busy trying to get somewhere, we forget to stop and truly get to know the people around us. That is, until the jury summons arrives.
The compassionate court clerk took attendance and ushered us back to our seats. After a few minutes, the lawyers picked their seven and the rest of us were sent back down to the infinite purgatory that is the “juror waiting room.” In the elevator on the way down, I looked around and smiled at our little group. I liked them.
Goodbye my jury duty friends. See you on the other side…of the metal detectors.
Featured in my music playlist, “Difference Maker.”