Doing my duty is the least I can do
Leafing through the mail last Friday night, my wife offered a short snicker and said “Uh, oh, here you go — again.”
She offered a knowing smile while handing me the easily identifiable red-and-white envelope.
Jury duty — again.
We’ve lived in western Nevada County for just more than a decade, but I’m guessing I’ve received an average of nearly one call to duty in each of those years.
On those occasions, I’ve followed the directions and made the phone call the night before I’ve been ordered to report, which typically results in a notification that a trip to the courthouse won’t actually be necessary — except on just one occasion.
In that one instance that I was actually called to serve on a jury, I couldn’t help but become a bit frustrated upon learning about the case before us.
Apparently, someone who had “allegedly” drank too much and “reportedly” caused a ruckus at a local hotel had been charged with public intoxication.
That person’s plight had brought 12 people together for an entire day, away from work, our families and other obligations in order to determine whether his alleged alcoholic beverage-fueled behavior on the night in question had broken the law.
I surveyed the scene inside the courtroom, attempting to count the court personnel — beyond the judge and the two attorneys — whose efforts in handling the case was certainly quite costly.
It seemed like such a waste of everyone’s time.
On Saturday morning, an old friend who was visiting my family spotted my jury duty notice on the kitchen counter.
I complained about how often I’d received the notices and shared the story about my one less than memorable opportunity to actually serve on a jury, as I poured him another cup of coffee.
I cringe to imagine what he must have been thinking.
After all, it was over that cup of coffee that my friend, Randy, shared a few stories about serving his own call to duty.
Though we grew up together from the age of five, it had been 17 years since Randy and I had gotten together.
Being out in the Bay Area for Coast Guard training, we finally got that chance to catch up and for me to give him a tour of the Gold Country and the Sierra.
As a member of the military, Randy has traveled all over the U.S. in serving our country, often moving his family from state to state in order to fill our nation’s needs of him.
He also spent a full year of serving in the Middle East, helping to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by ensuring hazardous materials shipped back to the U.S. were safely transported in containers he and his Coast Guard team had carefully inspected.
Sure, he said he was never on the front lines of combat, but he also said he never felt quite at ease while serving — the occasional mortar rounds that landed near his base made sure that he was “on edge” throughout his deployment.
He proudly spoke of his service, and shared exciting stories of venturing into lands of which he had never before dreamed of going — along with some photos of celebrities he met during the occasional USO show.
And the thought of Randy spending Christmas in his bunk, in harms way halfway ’round the world from his family in a foreign land, quickly put into perspective an afternoon away from the office to deal with jury duty.
Some friends often kid me that the reason I keep receiving jury duty notifications is because I actually responded and served, as though the folks who mail the notices have actual designated pools of people: those who do what’s expected of them and those who simply blow it off.
I’m sure that’s not the case. We each do have responsibilities to serve simply as citizens of this country, state and county.
Even if the case might not rise to the level one would think to be worthy of a trial (tell that to the person facing the charges), serving on a jury is one of those duties.
And as inconvenient as it may seem at the time, it far pales in comparison to the service of all those who make a larger sacrifice for our society.
It really is the least we can do.
Brian Hamilton is managing editor at The Union. Contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 477-4249.
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“There is a cult of ignorance in this country … nurtured by the false notion that ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov, 1980.