Unreasonable Hospitality, Leadership, Human Connection

Unreasonable Hospitality on Jury Duty: My Unexpected Experience

Last Monday, I experienced something extraordinary in an unexpected place: unreasonable hospitality on jury duty. Typically, reporting for jury duty is a mundane and often dreaded task, but my recent visit to the Durham County Justice Center was different. Here’s how a jury services clerk named Lorrine transformed an ordinary morning into a memorable experience.

The Start of an Unexpected Day

It was only the second time I had ever been called for jury duty. The first time, I was excused after calling the go-no go phone line the night before. This time, I was instructed to show up at the Justice Center. So, I did, not knowing what to expect or how my day would go.

At 8:25 am, I joined about a hundred people milling around outside, waiting for the doors to open. We moved quickly through security and up to the third-floor hallway outside the jury pool waiting room. 

Meeting Lorrine

It was there that we met Lorrine, the jury services clerk. With a smile and a confident yet friendly voice, she explained how things would proceed and guided us on how to line up inside the waiting room for check-in. In just ten minutes, she had everyone registered, despite a few people pleading their case to get out of jury duty. She listened patiently and then told each of them, still smiling, that they’d get the opportunity to share their story with the judge.

As we each left her check-in window, she asked us to fill the waiting room from the back to the front. Once every seat was full, Lorrine strode in with a big smile, welcomed us again, thanked us for being there, and explained how the morning would go. She then cued up a couple of videos on the monitors about what to expect in the courtroom.

Experiencing Unreasonable Hospitality

As someone who has spent a large part of their career in front of rooms full of people, I was impressed by Lorrine. She commanded the room not with force, but with competence and warmth. She clearly was running the show, but with a smile here and a joke there, she put us all at ease in what could have been a very stressful situation.

Lorrine practiced what Michelin-star-winning restaurateur and best-selling author Will Guidara calls unreasonable hospitality. This is the title of his mega-hit book that’s out this year. A client of mine who loves it recently asked his leadership team and me to read it so we could discuss the lessons learned at a recent offsite. Over the weekend, I listened to Will’s TED Talk on the book and his experience at Eleven Madison Park, the restaurant he used to own in New York. As I listened to his stories about providing unreasonable hospitality to his high-end patrons, I realized he was describing exactly how Lorrine treated all of us potential jurors – with unreasonable hospitality.

As Will explains in his TED Talk, unreasonable hospitality is about making people feel seen, making them feel welcome, and giving them a sense of belonging. Lorrine did each of those things. She artfully gave individual attention to the people who wanted it, making them feel seen and heard. She was intentional about not just saying welcome multiple times but making us feel welcome. By putting our jury service in the context of the justice system and acknowledging our common concerns about what was going to happen that morning, she gave us a sense of belonging to a bigger community and tradition.

In his TED Talk, Will talked about how unreasonable hospitality brings together ingredients in the recipe of human connection. With no more of a tool kit at her disposal than her experience, personality, and the way she chose to deploy them, Lorrine cooked up human connection. 

Personal Reflection

This experience made me reflect on the power of approach and attitude in our interactions. Do we choose to approach our work and interactions with others in a perfunctory, get-it-over-with way, or do we choose to engage in a way that leaves a lasting positive memory? If Lorrine can do that in her job as a jury services clerk, I’m pretty sure most of us can do it in ours.

What Happened Next

And, in case you’re wondering, when we all got up to the courtroom, it turned out we were there to be selected for two grand juries that will serve for a year! They filled up the juries before my name was called, so I have a two-year hiatus before I’ll likely see Lorrine again. I’m actually looking forward to it. Never would have guessed I’d feel that way about jury duty, but that’s the power of unreasonable hospitality in action.

Next time you have the opportunity to serve others, ask yourself: How can I make this experience unexpectedly positive? The choice to offer unreasonable hospitality can transform mundane experiences into memorable ones, leaving a lasting impact on those we interact with.

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