Turning the dread of jury duty into a form of enjoyment begins with understanding why jury duty matters. Simply put, it may well be the closest you ever come to the Constitution -- not just exercising a right it gives you, but participating in the process through which constitutional rights and values come alive in practice. In a country formed from a single founding document, it is amazing how disconnected most of us are from its meaning and purpose. Jury duty changes that reality - it is a day of constitutional connection. It is also a government-provided free pass from your normal family and work responsibilities. It is the law of the land that you cannot complete your workaday routine. Jury duty thus provides an opportunity (with plenty of waiting time) to reflect on our shared constitutional values.
What are these constitutional values? Participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, and the common good - these are constitutional values, and they are embedded in jury service.
A jury summons is an invitation to participation. Jurors are asked to involve themselves in some of the most personal, sensational, and terrifying events in a community. It is real life, usually real tragedy, played out in court. Jurors confront disturbing facts, bloody images, or heart-wrenching testimony. A jury may have to decide whether a man lives or dies, or whether a multimillion-dollar company goes bankrupt. A jury will have to pass judgment in a way that will have real-world effects on both parties before the court. This active role was not accidental. Participation in jury service teaches the skills required for democratic self-government. Being a juror lets you develop the habits and skills of citizenship.
What are these "democracy" skills? Think about what is required for a politically active nation. As a juror, you are asked to "vote" based on contested facts. You must debate issues framed by contesting parties. This involves listening to others and tolerating dissenting views (as well as expressing your own opinions). Jurors necessarily expand their social interaction with different types of people, broadening perspectives, contacts, and sources of information. To apply the law jurors must understand the law, the rights of the parties, and the legal rules guiding the decision. Each of these participatory skills--deliberation, debate, tolerance, cooperation, civility, legal decision making--is what we need for a democracy to work. The participatory aspect of jury duty shapes our constitutional character. Those habits and skills, our civic education, helps define who we are as Americans.
Or, as another example, take the value of deliberation. In the very first sentence of The Federalist Papers, a collection of essays and arguments in favor of the U.S. Constitution, Alexander Hamilton invited Americans to this different way of deciding, "You are called upon to deliberate on a new Constitution," he wrote (emphasis added). It was a call that perfectly fits the thinking of a democracy. Deliberation involves collective decision making--a willingness to think together using reason and informed discussion to come to a final decision.