That poor, poor sap. We’ve all overslept before. I haven’t done this in a long time, but in my younger days it surely would happen. The feeling is a bit unnerving. Coming from a deep, dark, comforting sleep into the sheer panic — the waking realization — that you’re late, you’re late, for a very important date.
But it happened to a young man in Florida. He overslept, and having done so, made him late for jury duty. And when he did show up? That judge, the guy in charge of the courtroom, did more than slap his hand. He sentenced him to 10 days in the slammer. And there’s more. He got one year on probation and 150 hours of community service. And now he has a criminal record.
I’m not sure about this one. The young man works at after school programs for the city of West Palm Beach. He lives with, and takes care of, his aging grandparents. And, this was his first time being called for jury duty. The judge said the young man’s negligence caused a 45-minute-delay in his courtroom.
We all make mistakes. Some of them bigger than others. This guy surely paid dearly for his error. I’m not sure the severity of his punishment fit the crime. Nonetheless, here in the United States, we have what is called “Our Civic Duty.” This can mean a lot of things really. Our good Constitution tells us clearly what is expected of us, in that very first line.
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States.”
It is spelled out further in by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Here is what the honor of our citizenship requests of us.
• Support and defend the Constitution.
• Stay informed of the issues affecting your community.
• Participate in the democratic process.
• Respect and obey federal, state, and local laws.
• Respect the rights, beliefs, and opinions of others.
• Participate in your local community.
• Pay income and other taxes.
• Serve on a jury when called upon.
• Defend the country if the need should arise.
It should be our pleasure to do this. Unfortunately, I think many people either have forgotten this, or perhaps they never knew.
As for that young man in Florida, that 21-year-old, I am sure he will be very aware of his civic duty for the rest of his life. And the rest of us? I hope we remember too, and work for the greater good. This feels increasingly difficult, however, when the top leaders in our government seem to be failing to do their own civic duties.
Regardless, we do not measure ourselves against the merits of others. Our true measure comes from our own virtue, our own integrity and decency. Good and unique unto each one of us. And when we do this — even in small measures — we can sleep well at night.
And hopefully, wake up on time in the morning.
“If I were to remain silent, I’d be guilty of complicity.”
― Albert Einstein
“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”
― Benjamin Franklin
“God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right, even though I think it is hopeless.”
― Chester Nimitz