Getting the Story, Making the Connection
“The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” —Benjamin Disraeli, British statesman
I think we should all take our turn at being thrown into a room and forced to spend the day with 5 people we don’t know and probably will never meet again. I didn’t think that yesterday, but I’m entirely convinced of it today.
Entirely, happily, exhaustedly convinced.
I had jury duty this month. In our county, when you are on call for jury duty, your term of commitment is thirty days. Thirty days of calling in each night, Sunday through Thursday, checking the courthouse message line to see if your panel is going to be asked to serve.
Thirty days has September, April, June and November … I spent 27 days free of the call to duty. Then on day 28, after several close (but canceled) calls, I finally had to face the onerous, dreaded task of driving to the courthouse, signing in, getting tagged and numbered, watching an 18-minute orientation film, listening to a lecture by our judge, filing into the courtroom to answer a long list of (sometimes ridiculous-sounding) questions by a defense and a prosecuting attorney and then finally getting sent home again.
You’re tired (and bored) just reading about it, aren’t you.
Problem was, I didn’t get sent home again. And there I was, thrown into a room with five strangers, all just as unhappy and shocked to be there as I was — unhappy, shocked and, if truth be told, just a little excited at the prospect of being one of the chosen — but still, unhappy.
It was a panel of only six jurors because we were in Inferior Court, as our judge told us, and in Inferior Court (also known as District Court) we are only allowed to hear the lesser cases — no felonies, no civil cases over $75,000 — this was sure to be an easy day. Right?
I’ll tell you the end of the day first — it was a hung jury.
Yup, one hold out. (And no, it wasn’t me.)
We argued for at least 4 intense hours until we finally gave up and asked the judge to please put us out of our misery. We spent a total of 11 hours in the courthouse.
Within that 11 hour time frame we had a lot of down time. A LOT of down time. What did we do? We told each other our stories.
One lady is from Toledo, she’s a nurse, she loves her dachshund, her daughters are active in fast pitch, she has an RV that they love to drive down to the beach, she was raised in Kelso, married a Toledo farm boy.
Another was missing the chance to see her newborn niece. She loves her family, loves listening to people’s stories and encouraging them to give more details.
Another works for a daycare center with her daughter, married only three years, her husband has a Chinese Crested dog that she didn’t know would be sleeping in the bed under the covers with them when they got married, but she accepted the fact and was relieved to hear that two other people in the room had dogs that did the same thing. She beamed at the connection made, her smile rivaling the sunny butter yellow of her knit sweater set.
Another woman (our hold out, btw) had worked many jobs and done many things and lived many places. She talked about the people and the places in short spurts of hurried sharing. Eager to join in the story telling, but not quite sure where she wanted to go or if we were interested in listening (we were) or what she wanted to say.
And finally, our elected leader and the only man in the room, has two kids of his own, both grown. And now he has adopted his brother’s four children, all 5th grade and under and he and his wife have started a new journey. He was tired, he had worked the night shift and had come directly to jury duty from work. We had to work his stories out of him, but we were all enthralled. Starting over? Taking on another family with such determined enthusiasm? His wife quit work to stay home with the kids to “do the right thing” and raise them without daycare. Hoorah! We women were all in love with the idea of him — even with his 18″ beard!
I waited until near the end of our time there to tell my story. Oh, they knew bits and pieces. They could tell from my purse that I was a quilter. They heard me say I had four kids, all grown now. A granddaughter on a Alaskan cruise with my parents. I live in the Mossyrock area. But the news that I wrote news? I saved that for last, after all their stories were told.
And when I told them, a communal cry went up, “You do?? What’s your name? Have I read something you wrote? How exciting!”
One woman pulled a clipping out of her purse, and no, it wasn’t mine, but it was a story written by Gordon Aadland, a story about a family. A family he had watched grow and change over three generations. A heart-warming story of successful Mexican immigrants, accompanied by a heart-breakingly sweet portrait of two small boys with smiling faces and missing teeth.
It’s all about story. It’s all about listening to your story and you listening to mine. We are a tribe, a community, a gathering of people with wants and needs and loves and heart-breaks and heart-breakingly sweet stories of growth and change.
I am, I continue to be, in love with this tribe.
“Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smaller right and doing it all for love.” —St. Thérèse of Lisieux