BARING YOUR SOUL TO STRANGERS

By Mohan Karulkar: Jury duty can seem pretty dull, but if your name gets called, jury selection is anything but.  You're in a big courtroom, surrounded by people in suits, taking part in a procedure you don't really know much about. You stand up, sit down, say "I do," and try not to look too shifty. It's all quite exciting.

Oh, and you bare your soul to a bunch of strangers.

See, during jury selection, a judge asks you all kinds of deep probing questions -- about your beliefs, your criminal history, your family, your hobbies, whatever. She's entitled to know because she has to ensure a fair jury.  It's necessary, even though it seems kind of invasive.

And you know what?  People talk.  And talk.  And talk. I've sat through jury selection, and it's impossible to ignore the fact that people like talking about the important things in their lives. They aren't shy, but in fact seem like they're itching to tell someone about themselves. And not just anyone, but a room full of strangers.  People are like fire hoses -- once they got going, they want to tell their life story.

Could it be that they haven't actually had the opportunity to tell their life story in awhile?

It turns out that the formality makes the courtroom something of a safe place, because you're not the one on trial. The judge isn't asking so she can judge you (ironic, right?). If you admit you're a racist, you might get dismissed, but she's not going to scold you for it.  If you were once fired for incompetence, she's not going laugh at you. If you're 67, never married, and have no kids, she's not going to ask you "why?!"  And everyone else?  They're not even allowed to talk to you.

So people bare their souls.  And the judge smiles and listens to their extra details, and throws in a random fact about her life too.  For a few seconds, they bare their soul, because someone asked them, and is actually listening to their answer. Because they know their answer matters for once.

Let's live the kind of lives that let people know that we won't judge either.  Let's ask questions that matter and listen to the answers.  Let's make sure people know their answers matter to us -- that they matter to us.  Because everyone has a soul to bare, and we don't get called for jury duty nearly often enough to suffice.

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