The grand jury doesn’t meet on Sundays, but today I “ran into” one of my fellow jurors at a block party in my neighborhood. It turns out we have several mutual friends. I’ve been reveling in the forced diversity of the jury experience and challenging my friends to come up with a single situation in normal American life that forces seven randomly chosen people to work together every day for four weeks.
- Regular jury duty? One day.
- Bowling league? Voluntary.
- Nielsen ratings? You never have to spend time together.
- Costco shopping? You’re not doing a single task.
- School? Not so diverse.
- Church? An hour at a time.
It took three weeks, but one juror and I found common ground amid this vaulted diversity. It sounds like others have begun to “find one another” in similar ways. And so is revealed the hidden power of diversity: given enough time and effort, I believe I would find common purpose with all six of my compatriots in that jury room.
Diversity is not the true goal. Diversity is the net and the lines on the tennis court, making sure the game isn’t so easy that it’s not enjoyable to play and satisfying to win. The game is identity, common unity, community. But the more “seemingly” diverse the group, the better the surprise when you find yourselves pulling together for the common good.
This block party was a diverse group, 50 people who share a zip-plus-four, but little else. Or so we thought. But after a few hours of music and food and small talk, I’ll bet many common purposes were discovered, knitting neighbors together.
Maybe that’s the answer to my challenge. There are neighborhoods in Eugene, more here than most places, where a wildly diverse group of people are thrown together to solve problems — and for a lot longer than four weeks.