Wednesday morning began with jury duty. The early evening featured a trip to the emergency room. By midnight, I was on strike from my job as an adjunct professor at the New School.
Jury duty, emergency room, strike. What an unholy trifecta. Any one of them is a situation that we hope to avoid at all costs. The odds of any one person experiencing all three on the same day have to be astronomical. It’s like three lemons on a slot machine where the winnings were a loss of time, mounting frustration and uncertainty.
By the next day, I was excused from further jury duty due to an apparent conflict of interest. The trip to the emergency room, caused by my daughter’s temperature spiking at over 105 degrees, came and went without ever being seen by a doctor after a three hour excursion. Fortunately, her fever broke and she was soon on the road to recovery. The strike continues but the solidarity shown by students and full-time faculty members is heartening as is the progress in negotiations to date.
While all three experiences were disruptive and imperfect, they were also in a strange way affirming. As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a reminder that we can feel grateful for those systems aimed to assist us – even when they don’t completely fulfill our expectations.
A jury is a conduit to justice, An emergency room is a means to care and strikes an instrument towards fairness. The outcomes of each are not universally positive, often messy, almost always marked by some degree of frustration. Yet they are populated by people who are working in service of something good. Folks who are just trying to help others. In the heat of the moment this fact can get lost on us but shouldn’t be taken for granted.
Many, in this country and abroad, don’t have access to the same cadre of people working to provide justice, care and fairness.
There is no shortage of other systems or situations that seem, at any given time, to be failing us. Millions of people, myself included, were left disappointed after failing to score Taylor Swift tickets (also on Wednesday). But the design of that system was intended to avoid bots and brokers taking tickets away from real fans. In the end, the system failed many but it wasn’t for lack of trying or good intentions.
So whether you sit in Thanksgiving traffic exacerbated by construction, remember it’s your tax dollars paying construction workers trying to make roads safer in the long term. If you miss out on that Black Friday deal, think of the people who made that special gift that some other family will be able to enjoy. When the referee blows that call at your kids game, be grateful that you still have refs who show up.
Expressing gratitude for the people we love is always important but also low hanging fruit. This Thanksgiving perhaps you can reach a little higher and give thanks for people working in imperfect, frustrating systems who are just trying to do their best.
Maybe I’ll call my cable company just to say thanks for working today.