Wednesday, May 07, 2014
Don't Call Us/ We"ll Call You
It was our Mom's favorite Bible verse to quote to me:
"Many are called but few are chosen." I'm not sure why she quoted these words of Jesus, taken from Matthew 22:14, so often to me but it stuck. I thought about it again today as I was summoned for the fifth time to jury duty here in Houston. I would guess there were between fifty and sixty of us in the pool as we gathered in a Justice of the Peace courtroom for Precinct 7. But just as a pool needs water to make it a pool, so a jury needs a case to make it a jury. After waiting about twenty minutes past the appointed arrival time of 1:00 PM, the JP, a very nice lady, came out and explained why we would not be sitting in judgment today. At 8:30 this morning, the county had 146 cases lined up for hearing but 4 1/2 hours later, all had been settled and not one person charged with a crime had requested a jury trial so we were dismissed. They say the wheels of justice grind slowly- not today.
I wouldn't classify this two hour episode of my life a waste of time. I was especially blessed today with the assistance of my awesome teacher's aide, Megan Hill, as I prepared to be absent! It was test day in Bible 1 so two of my afternoon classes had to be covered by subs, Coach Okwuono and Coach Arguello, respectively. I was a little concerned about my 7th period ESL class as there are often definition questions but by all accounts, it went just fine! (Kind of hurts my feelings that they survived without me!)
But there was another reason this experience in citizenship was worthwhile. As I walked into the government building, I arrived at the same time as an older gentleman. Neither of us were quite sure where to go but we figured it out and walked up the stairs together a half hour early. We were immediately ushered into the assembly room and sat together and I found out a great deal about him. He, like me, was born in Brooklyn and grew up in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of the borough. He met his wife of forty years in Acapulco when his cousin asked this girl he met to lunch and dragged Jay along where he met the girl's friend and they got married seven months later. They have two daughters, one a speech pathologist in L.A. and the other a neurosurgeon at Johns-Hopkins. He told me how the younger of his two girls had a mistake on her passport with the date of birth being the same as the date of issue, causing confusion in a European vacation. His wife had been a teacher in the public schools in Houston and had retired several years back. Jay had worked for the US Government in Customs before it was taken over by, I believe, Homeland Security after the 9-11 attacks. Now he volunteers as a shop teacher in a summer program in Sugar Land, a suburb of Houston. Jay told me he had been called eight times before for jury duty but never seated, which he thinks was at least partly based on his government position. After our dismissal, we walked out to the parking lot together and shook hands. We actually live fairly close to each other in Houston-terms but I doubt we will ever cross paths again. If you can get to know someone waiting for jury duty, then I feel I got to know Jay.....except I never caught his last name.
Still, Jay said something I think will stick with me because his perspective is so different from mine. As we talked about our histories with juries, he made a statement which I could never utter, at least at this stage of my life. Jay told me, "I wish I could get selected for the jury on a really long trial." He's retired, he finds the topic of legal cases fascinating, and I think he must be dealing with boredom. But for me, at this time of year, being selected for even a two day trial could prove disastrous. I have one more section to cover in Bible, finals to review for, grading decisions that can only be made by me, let alone the few days I have left with my basketball team whom I dearly love. Jay and I have the same amount of time but we don't have the same amount of time. I feel like I have about 120 kids depending on me every day and while substitutes are very much needed and sometimes life savers, I would almost panic to leave my year's work in the hands of someone who is not emotionally invested in what we have done. In that case, I doubt I could concentrate as I should to be the kind of juror our legal system requires to function fairly. As we all know, Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3 speaks of the different times of our existence. I cannot perceive being where Jay is right now in his life but I bet he understands exactly where I am. I remind myself that Paul taught that a believer's citizenship is in heaven. That's a blessing- no jury duty up there! Also, no $6 stipend for just showing up but we can't have everything!
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Posted by Steve Hawley at 9:56 PM