Privilege vs Duty: How a Change in Perspective Can Lead to Appreciation of the Mundane

About a month ago, I received that cursed piece of pretentious mail that most of us dread and despise: the jury summons. At the time, I remember the instant frustration and, I daresay, indignation I felt about being forced to do something that I didn’t and wouldn’t feel like doing. The name alone instills a sense of defiance: “DUTY.” Requirement. Obligation. Chore. Burden. Infringement on MY time. What then ensued was something along the lines of a massive eyeroll and a “they don’t know my life! This is so inconvenient. How can they do this to me?!!”

Bright and early on a Monday morning a couple of weeks later (truly making it the Mondayest of all Mondays), I reported for duty. There was a list posted at the front of the room of judges needing jurors for trials that day, and so the awkward lottery process began. First they summoned a group of 90+ people, then 36, then 32, of which my number was called. They shuffled us upstairs where they then ticked us off into one group of 12 and groups of 6, lined us up, and escorted us into the courtroom. We were there to potentially serve for a criminal trial. Prosecuting and defending attorneys were seated, along with the defendant. A brief synopsis of what the trial would entail was given, and then the vetting process began. The original group of twelve was seated in the jury box, and the rest of us were seated in the audience. The judge entered the room and briefed us, and then both attorneys were given the opportunity to ask us questions, set up scenarios, and basically see if we would be suitable as jurors for this case. By the end, jurors were removed and replaced in the jury box, until only 6 remained in the audience—myself included—and the process was done. They had their final 12 jurors. I was SO close! 

The judge overseeing this particular trial brought up the fact that as adults, none of us likes being told what to do, and the jury summons blatantly ignores that “right.” He then went on to explain the history of trial by jury, and the unique privilege it is to live in a country that utilizes this within their judicial system. He spoke of personal experiences serving in other countries where one person is given the sole responsibility to make life-changing decisions for cases presented to the court. Many don’t have the right to a fair trial with a jury of their peers, and subsequently serve unfair sentences and extreme lifetime punishments for crimes they perhaps did not commit.

By the end of it all, I found myself swelling with pride and wanting to shout “I volunteer as tribute!!! Put me in, coach! Please, pick ME!” While many were reasoning as to why they shouldn't or would be incapable of serving on this case, I was squirming in my seat and keeping my hand from raising itself to beg to be selected. I knew that my love of facts and details paired with my deep desires for truth and justice would make me a great juror. They had to know that! But alas, it was a game of numbers and chance and I wasn’t needed this time. However, the experience was not all for naught. It wasn’t even a waste of my time. In fact, it was a very unique glimpse into the inner workings of our justice system, and an even bigger glimpse into the power of perspective.

The entire experience got me thinking: how often in life do we view minor inconveniences as burdens, when they may actually be privileges in disguise? And how much do we truly take for granted?

A quick google search of some of the top recorded “most annoying things” in the average daily life included the likes of technology frustrations: slow wifi speeds, inconvenient computer updates, phones not charging, tangled headphones...many food-related annoyances: eating the whole bag of chips unintentionally, waiters removing your drink glass before you’re finished, pistachio nuts that won’t open…and loads of transportation and time-related nuisances: motorcyclists that weave in and out of traffic, getting stuck in slow lines, someone cutting you off, people walking slowly in front of you, long waits at the doctor’s office even with an appointment time, etc. A huge "inconvenience" for me? Grocery shopping. I hate the task of it. But what an extreme privilege it is to have that opportunity--to go somewhere where the food options abound, I'm able to select and purchase what I want, and feed my family. If you stop to really put things into perspective, perhaps even the most bothersome of tasks really aren’t so bad. It’s a blessing to have cell phones, computers, transportation, jobs to show up for, countless options for purchasing food, medical care, etc. when many the world over have nothing.

Maybe your job is frustrating to no end. You have a horrible boss, petty coworkers, and the work is unfulfilling. But it’s a privilege to have work when many can’t get it. Owning a home comes with the menial tasks of upkeep and repairs that are burdensome, annoying, and costly, and yet many don’t have the privilege of a roof over their head. It’s often annoying to have to even think about our diet: what we eat/don't eat, how to nourish our bodies and maintain our health, meal plan, prep, etc., and yet many don’t have the privilege of even knowing where their next meal is coming from. It’s a privilege to be able to have a say in the outcome of our own health.

We often assume a mindset of entitlement—I do or do not deserve this. Our first instinct to inconvenience is indignation. But what if we paused first to really look at the circumstance, and pull it into a perspective of gratitude and thankfulness for what is rather than what isn’t? To be fair, we will face many trials and hardships in this life. That truth is undeniable. But it’s how we move through them, how we cling to the good with gratitude, that will allow us the perspective to appreciate.

I encourage you to take time today to really press pause in each and every one of your frustrations and irritations, and ask yourself “Where’s the blessing in this? What is the privilege in this circumstance?” I promise, you’ll be amazed at the shift you see in your mind and in your life.

I'd love to hear from you! Share with me in the comments below how you've turned a "duty" into a privilege in your own life. 

In loving health,