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How One Man Made Jury Duty A Delight

John Ortberg shares what he learned about civic duty and enthusiasm from being called to jury duty:

It was 9:00 on a Monday morning and I was one of 150 unhappy campers sitting on plastic chairs crammed into a sterile basement room in the San Mateo County Courthouse, reporting for jury duty. We all had one thing in common: We wanted to be somewhere else.

Until Larry happened.

Larry works for the government, and however much we pay him, it's not enough. In a few short minutes, he won over the crowd of prospective jurors and infused us with a sense of honor and purpose. "I know you're all busy people," he said. "But I want to say thank you. I want to tell you, on behalf of the judges and our legal system and the county of San Mateo and, really, our nation, we're grateful for your service."

Although almost no one is happy about getting a summons to jury duty, Larry said, it's actually incredibly meaningful, and it's the foundation of a justice system in which people have a right to trial by a jury of their peers. He told us a story about a ninety-five-year-old woman who was no longer able to drive, but who took three buses to get to the courthouse so she could serve. When she arrived, Larry asked her, "Did you call ahead like you're supposed to, to find out if you're even needed for jury duty?" She said, "I couldn't. I don't have one of those push-button phones." Turns out, she still had a rotary dial phone.

Larry reminded us of the nobility of justice, and the long centuries of struggle for it, and how, even now, people around the world were fighting, and in some cases dying, for the right to exercise this privilege. As he spoke, people stopped texting; they sat up straight; they nudged each other and seemed inspired. By the time my number was called, I was so excited to serve that when the judge asked me whether I could pronounce someone guilty, I told him I was a pastor and that, according to the Bible, everybody was guilty. I said, "I could even pronounce you guilty!"

I wasn't selected to serve on a jury that time, but the point is that a room full of sullen, silent, phone-checking, self-important draftees had been transformed into a community of joyful patriots in a matter of minutes. When people left the courthouse that day, they were talking and laughing like old friends.

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