Just spent three days sitting in a courtroom of the King County courthouse, a grand old space with lovely marble floors and glacially slow elevators. I was the last juror seated in a civil case that involved testimony from a doc who thought he was a stand-up comic. Judge Marianne Spear finally had to tell him to keep his answer succinct. He did not, even though he kept complaining that he needed to get out of there. He had patients to see. Well, he was trying our patience with his long, rambling answers. Oh, and part of one of his long, rambling answers involved taking personal responsibility for paying bills: "I have patients that pay me in homemade jams and sausages. I've got a guy who's washing my car for the rest of his life to pay off his debt."
The wheels of justice creak in strange ways and I really didn't want to be there, nudging Juror No. 8, who fell asleep and trying not to fall asleep myself or roll my eyes too obviously at the inept lawyers. OK, one was inept, the other was condescending beyond belief. She even winked at the jury and baldly laughed at the poor, pitiful plantiff. Come on. Still, I felt good about fulfilling my civic duty and it was exciting to find myself in a group dynamic that somehow worked like it's supposed to work. There were no obnoxious divas, nobody who hogged the floor when it came time to talk.
If this were an episode of some legal drama, the case would have been sensationalized as cop hits man, who was driving while black. The plantiff was suing the city of Seattle for injuries sustained in a low-speed rear-ender. The city admitted liability, but Mr. E wanted more. He wanted a paycheck, so said the snarky defense attorney. Oh, the accident happened nearly five years ago, and the plantiff went to prison shortly after for domestic violence and witness tampering. He was from an abusive family and was on anti-psychotic drugs. He was not exactly a credible witness. He went to a chiropractor for treatment and the defense contended that those manipulations aggravated the injury to his neck and shoulder. A pathologist on the jury had examined post-mortem patients who died as a result of chiropractic adjustments. Holy crap!
While we sat in the jury room, deliberating, I stared at the poster in the photograph, thinking about these weighty words. This call to action to do something, anything to contribute. I try. (See item below.) The older I get, the more it breaks my heart to see the pain and suffering in the world. The guy in the wheelchair with a ratty cup from Subway, begging for change. The woman sitting on the street corner, who said thanks but no thanks when offered leftover pizza. She couldn't eat it because she had no teeth. These things haunt me. I don't want to hear about how people make choices. People don't choose to be born into poverty and have abusive parents and end up on the street.
It's certainly much more complicated than dumping a bunch of change into a ratty cup or not trying to wiggle out of jury duty. I want to support the Occupy movement, but still do not quite understand what the goal is there. Oh, and then, there's this: I am constantly hustling to get work that pays something beyond peanuts so I can make my mortgage payment. I am too busy for do-gooding, right? Wrong. One powerful reason I want to do more is that I can picture myself on the receiving end of that help.
So, yeah, here comes the pitch. It's really not hard to contribute to one of my favorite charitable causes. The University District Food Bank helps feed 1,000 people a week, many of those numbers are children of working families. Please consider "walking in the light of creative altrusim" by making a donation online.