Earlier this week I posted a comparison of the words Niceness and Kindness, particularly in regard to how they affect our interactions with people.
Today, I was called to Jury Duty.
For a number of reasons, going to something like Jury Duty in downtown Houston for criminal court in one of the largest cities in the country is more than just the usual Ugh/Pain in the Ass/Do I really have to do this? reaction.
I started preparing for having to do this three weeks ago. I made maps and memorized them, checked and double checked that I had the proper amount of cash. Treated myself to a new multi-color pencil to take with me for drawing mandalas as a way to help with anxiety. I called my doctor and arranged to make sure that I wouldn’t have to worry about my meds at all this week and got her advice on ways to manage the situation (as well as her assurance that, if I woke up today in a huge anxiety attack, that she would call the courthouse and help me deal with getting rescheduled). I carefully analyzed my clothes for comfort level, ability to stay warm, and ability to almost completely hide my body. I packed my purse two days ago.
Today, prepared for the worst of the worst, but going into it knowing I’d done everything in my power to make it as manageable an experience as possible… I went, and was blown away by kindness.
The man at the metal detector, who not only smiled, but struck up a little conversation about my insulated water bottle. The parking garage attendant who gave me advice on parking, told me how to get to the elevators (on the other side of the building), and then gave me excellent directions for how to get back to the highway from his parking garage. The jury summons attendants greeting people and giving directions to make sure we got where we needed to be and didn’t have to flounder around in the wrong place. The multiple friendly and good natured people waiting with me in various places.
And especially Bailiff Anderson, who had probably the most control over what was a largely uncontrolled process for us, and who went out of his way to make it at least tolerable.
You see, I got selected to go in with a jury pool of 80 people for a large criminal case. We were the largest group by far, and 80 people can be a little unwieldy in the best of situations. And then there were problems. We had to walk a little over 3 blocks to get to the right courthouse, go to the 15th floor, wait, go to the 20th floor, wait some more. Go into a courtroom, go back outside. Go into a different courtroom. And Bailiff Anderson, who had no more idea what was causing the delays than we did for most of it, cracked jokes and generally was an incredibly good sport with the 80 strangers standing around who had no idea what was going on, why it was taking so long, and really, none of whom was thrilled to even be there in the first place.
In the end, he had to explain that there had been some major issue with the case (the judge wasn’t able to talk about it, so he got the honors), and we were to be dismissed.
And then we played The Price Is Right to get our dismissal tickets.
Which is all to say that the kindness thing really does work. None of those people had to be kind, but they all chose to treat us like humans – possibly even as confused and uncomfortable humans who could really use a friendly face.
Because of them, what could have been a really, truly horrible day was stressful and exhausting, but manageable instead of sending me into an anxiety spiral for the next few days.
I won’t say I’m glad for doing it, especially since today is “Sunday” and I start my work week tomorrow.
But I’m very, very glad for those people who chose to be kind today, when their jobs really do put them in contact with a lot of unhappy people on a very regular basis. Perhaps they’re just kind, friendly people in general, or perhaps they too made the choice to be kind rather than simply polite.
*A note to Bailiff Anderson – you told us to tell your wife and your boss that you were awesome. Sadly, I don’t know either of those people, though I did mention you to the attendant on the way out of the courthouse. Instead, I’ll give you what little word fame I can. Thank you for your service and your great attitude.