By Lindsay Steele
Upon receiving a jury summons in my mailbox earlier this summer, I let out a sigh of irritation. Although it is my civic duty to make myself available to help the justice system, I wasn’t thrilled about having to put work and other obligations aside for an unknown period of time.
Ultimately, I was not selected to serve on a jury, so I spent the day waiting in a room with other summoned individuals. Usually, when I’m in a room full of strangers, I’ll pull out my cell phone for entertainment. That wasn’t an option here, since cell phones aren’t allowed in the Scott County Courthouse.
I came armed with a book to help me pass the time. But with my short attention span, I quickly grew bored. Luckily, someone around me started making small talk, and I joined in. Soon, two more people joined in the conversation. The conversation started out as one of complaint about the situation, but the topics became more personal as time went on. The four of us became fast friends simply because we had nothing better to do.
Time-rich and distraction-poor, we talked candidly about our lives. Everyone had a unique life story — one taught at a university in Hong Kong and was spending the summer back home; one was the mother of two children through adoption; one spent time living in Europe. I was the youngest in the group by about 15 years.
Somehow, the topic of religion came up and, to my surprise, everyone had a connection to the Catholic Church — two cradle Catholics and one whose husband is Catholic. We talked about the new bishop; everyone expressed feeling excited about the ordination and what Bishop Thomas Zinkula has to offer. Once they realized I write for The Catholic Messenger, they were anxious to start reading my stories.
When it was time to break for lunch, I decided to take my new companions on an adventure. A Mexican grocery store and restaurant that is said to have the most authentic Mexican food in town was only a few blocks away, so I suggested we go there. Everyone ordered something different, and we shared our dishes with each other. It was perhaps the most enjoyable meal I have had in a long time. The food, company and thrill of a new experience gave us the energy to make it through the rest of the day. The conversations continued well into the afternoon as we talked about children, health issues, foreign politics and more.
The quick connection I formed with these individuals surprised me, and it struck me that under normal circumstances we probably wouldn’t have said more than a casual “hello” to each other. We certainly didn’t have a lot in common other than the fact that we were stuck in a room together. As the day wore on, I began to feel grateful for the opportunity. The lack of distraction, which bothered us so much initially, was the reason we were able to be fully present to each other and make that connection.
We ended up being separated a few minutes before the courthouse closed so, unfortunately, I never had a chance to ask about the possibility of keeping in touch. It didn’t really matter. On that day, we mattered to each other. We experienced something together, even if it was just waiting around. We helped each other endure something that would have otherwise been tedious.
While I’m glad I won’t be summoned for at least another two years, I have to admit: waiting around the courthouse all day wasn’t so bad.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)