It is the small simple things of life that bring us peace.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

MLK's Dream

There are various celebrations going on right now to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s speech now known as the "I Have A Dream" speech.  It was delivered on August 28, 1963 during a rally at the Lincoln Memorial (if I read the historical reports correctly that is where it began).  I was young, too young to really remember this event.  I do remember the civil rights movement and I know that it was not pretty.

I am friends at church with an older couple, both have PhD's and have had interesting careers.  Delightful people.  Several years ago the wife shared that they were at the "I Have A Dream" speech as young people.  She had the first page of a newspaper from the day and showed us in the grainy black and white photo about where they were in the crowd. She and her husband were just a few of the white people present that day.  She shared with us that although there was violence in the civil rights movement that on that day there was a remarkable feeling of peace in the crowd during that rally.  Even after all those years, she remembered it as being an overwhelming experience of hearing him speak of his dream for peace.  This morning she reminded us of the 50th anniversary marking this event and I remembered her story.

Peace, peace we think.  I have to ask what is peace?  How do you define it?  We think of it in broad terms, as in world peace.  But I think of it in individual terms.  Peace starts with each individual, being content and having happiness in their heart and then spreading that peace to others and into our world.  Think of peaceful people, don't they touch others in the same way?  Gently, loving, compassionately sharing their peace.

Let There Be Peace on Earth and let it begin with me.
Let There Be Peace on Earth, the peace that was meant to be!
With God as our Father, brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me. Let this be the moment now.
With ev'ry breath I take, let this be my solemn vow;
To take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally!
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!

written by Sy Miller and Bill Jackson

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reflections on Jury Duty

Several weeks ago I received the dreaded notice in the mail:  I had to appear in County Court at a given time on a given date to serve as a Petit Juror.  Ugh, I had a flashback to a similar summons several years ago when I spent a very long day at the County Courthouse.  I was in a group of about 80 or 90  prospective jurors being interviewed for a murder trial.  The selection process went on all day and finally they agreed on a jury and the rest of us were led out of the courthouse through a back entrance since it was so late that the courthouse was already locked. 

It was a long day, but interesting, too.  I had expected it to be a stern, unfriendly place.  But everyone that worked there was super nice.  From the lady at the door who smiled and said "Good Morning" to the judges and bailiffs, the entire courthouse staff went out of their way to make it a pleasant experience.  They were proud to tell us that because Bexar County has such a high turnout rate for jury duty that other counties had sent observers to understand their methods.

Still, when the notice came this time I wasn't excited.  The day arrived and I presented myself as instructed.  The welcoming judge was the same judge from the murder trial.  His opening remarks were lighthearted with a few jokes and some personal information about his judicial background and how he had also served as a juror.  One time was when he was first running for judge and he felt it helped him to relate to the process.  Another time he had to ask to be excused because he was actually presiding over a case for trial that day!  Several times during his speech he thanked us for our willingness to serve and spoke of the contribution of citizens to the judicial process.

I spent most of the morning sitting and waiting.  Around 11 a.m. I was called, number 9 in a group of about 30.  After the bailiff organized us he had us ride up the elevator in groups to meet on the fourth floor of the courthouse.  After we got up there he told us that we were going to have a lunch break until 1:30 and then began to describe the places around the courthouse for eating lunch.  I wasn't really feeling good, still feeling the effects the upper respiratory infection, and just wanted to go home.  But it was lunch time what could I do.  I didn't want to eat in the crowded courthouse cafeteria, so I headed out with the group. 

My first thought was that I did not have a camera, how can that be, and I didn't even want to waste time with the phone camera.  But here I was with history all around me.  My consolation was that it was already very hot, I was wearing a suit, and didn't feel good.  As I was looking around deciding where to eat a lady in front of me who had been chatting with two other ladies just randomly turned around and asked if I wanted to join them.  Why not!  I fell in step with them and we headed to a nearby Mexican restaurant.

I had worked downtown in this same area for many years, so I knew the restaurant.  How nice to visit a place that I had eaten in before.  But the nice treat was having a lunch with three strangers!  I had flashbacks to my two trips to New England and sharing meals with the people on the trip; I made sure that I sat with a different group for each meal, as much as possible.  I like to do this whenever I eat several meals with the same group of people; it is a nice way to have variety and to get to know people. 

The lady that invited me was about my age, maybe a little older.  She was outgoing and level headed, I found myself wishing that I worked with her since she was enjoyable company.  There was a young lady, probably about my daughter's age.  She had small children and worked in the accounting profession.  The other lady was probably in her early forties and had four children raging in age from 4 to 16; she worked in the main office of a local school district.  The three ladies were all Hispanic.  We lived in different areas, but found that we had common ties.  It was a pleasant lunch.  We discussed neighborhoods, children, jobs, and jury duty.  How strange, I thought, that we were total strangers brought together by a summons.

After lunch our group assembled as instructed.  So did the other groups of prospective jurors.  They were led into their respective courtrooms, but there was no sign of our bailiff.  I told my lunch companions that maybe the prospective case participants had decided to settle out of court and we all laughed and crossed our fingers.  We waited and waited, the hallway was hushed.  Almost an hour later our bailiff appeared from within one of the court rooms.  He called us together and apologized for the delay.  He then told us to wait, he would be back with our excuses. Ah yes, I am right I thought.  Several minutes later he reappeared with the excuses and a young, nice looking African American man.  The bailiff apologized again and introduced the young man as the presiding judge and that he wanted to speak to us before we were dismissed. 

The Judge then told us that the good news was that the trial was being postponed due to some new facts that had been revealed that morning.  Both parties had agreed that it was in their best interests to do so.  He then told us the bad news was that our jury service was over and we were being sent home.  A chorus of "Awwww" went up, as expected.  There was laughter, but the Judge had more to say.  In a short speech, he also thanked us for our participation and our patience.  Although I was glad to be going home (to crash on my sofa) I felt appreciated and that I had done my part to be a good citizen.

My lunch companions and I walked out of the courthouse and said goodbye as we approached each of our parking spots.  I drove home, ready for that nap, but feeling oddly in touch with life.  I had been surrounded by total strangers in the jury room, eaten lunch with ladies that I had just met, and yet felt very connected to the process of the court system.  I honestly felt a renewed appreciation for our justice system.  The judges appreciation of our presence was sincere, so was their dedication to their jobs. I know that decisions are made within the court system that sometimes seem flawed, but have to think that the process of the law is efficient.  Our laws are complicated and complex, yet they all seem to fit together to protect our freedom and the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Lottery

Last week there was a rather large lottery jack pot up for grabs.  There was a lot of media coverage both before and after the drawing.  I did not win because I did not take the time to buy a ticket.  I rarely play the lottery, but sometimes if I happen to be in a convenience store and the jack pot is large enough I spend a dollar or two.  After the drawing last week I found myself thinking, what if I had won the lottery?  So, I played the "What If" game.

First of all I would quit the job to nowhere.  I would buy a new conversion van type motor home and start traveling all around the United States, with the dogs and my small Featherweight sewing machine.  I would visit historical places, quilt shops and stop at the dog shows along the way.  I would take my time and visit with folks along the way, experiencing the people of America.  Of course, I would be blogging all the way!

I would come home from time, but how nice to be able to do what I wanted, when I wanted.  Ah, that would be the good life!  I probably wouldn't change my life style very much, except in the aspect of time.

After I savored that delightful thought I had a realization.  I would also be able to volunteer, something I dearly love to do.  I could select two or three worthy organizations and get involved.  I would also have the time to make meals to send to sick or bereaved people, something I can't even think about now.  I could even volunteer to take friends to doctor appointments when the call for help goes out.  On and on I thought of the things I could do.  Winning the lottery wouldn't be just about me, but about being able to give my time to others, too.  But wait, do I have to win the lottery to do these things?  Absolutely not, I just need the time; hopefully, someday I will be able to do all these things. 

Maybe I don't need to win the lottery.  Winning the lottery would be nice, so would that conversion van.  But, really life is just fine the way it is, too!