Today is the day I prepare to be out of the office for the rest of the week. My to-do list is long, my anxiety is high. I knew just what I needed to make the morning productive. My comfort drink, a tall soy latte’ with hazelnut flavoring. So my mind full of the list ahead of me today, I headed to the coffee shop, distracted by my own realities. The Universe gave me a gift. I was given the opportunity to see Restorative Justice play out and I didn’t have to say a word. Let me tell you the story, then I’ll give you my restorative take-aways.
I ordered my drink, and stepped aside. Behind the counter, the staff was busy, and I think some confusion over who was mixing drinks and who was taking orders. The next person in the shop, and right behind me was a very kind looking, probably retired gentleman. He had a wisdom and masculine grace about him. I started to wonder about his story. Next in was a a middle age Mom, she seemed sweet with a bit of an accent, maybe. The shop own engaged both in conversation. I could see what was about to happen, and I just watched it all unfold.
Three more people arrived in line for coffee. The Mom who came in after the man, moved ahead of him in line. She had no idea that he had not ordered yet. I watched for his reaction. He watched her, rather closely I thought, as she ordered on ahead of him. I played out other options in my head. People who might scold her or try to stop her. It was very clear she knew not, of what she had done. The man’s energy did not get mean and he simply took the next chance to order. He waited until he was asked for his order.
The Mom, was shocked, said she was sorry. He said it was “fine, no problem”. Then she did the kindest act. She paid for his coffee. She told the barista “it’s his lucky day”. After the money was exchanged, he looked at the Mom again and told her “Really, you didn’t need to do that”. I thought I was going to shed a tear. It was moving for me. I thought of interrupting them, and telling them I was going to go do a blog post on what I saw, thank them for demonstrating Restorative Justice. I decided to leave it there, as a moment for them. I had my gift in seeing this exchange.
Considering harm on a continuum. On the left is ‘unintentional’, in the middle ‘lack of skill’ and on the right ‘malice’. Where we perceive the intentions of anothers behavior (or harm) can have a big impact on if we have a retributive or a restorative response. The nice man in the story above, he kept his zen. He just observed the woman ordering ahead of him. It was his turn, that’s how it works. Instead of becoming upset, he simply observed.
RJ is not about the apology it’s about the action. Not only did the Mom, acknowledge and say ‘sorry’, she took action to right the wrong. She paid for his coffee. She didn’t defend her actions, say something like “you should have told me” (which would be blaming the victim- something you have to be prepared to process with offenders). The Mom in this story, she accepted what she had done. She turned around with action for it.
Mutually beneficial. Victim-Offender-Community Member all present in Restorative Justice. In this little micro example. She felt good, righting her wrong, he felt good (compensated) and I felt good observing the entire process. Just like Restorative Justice everyone involved gets to have a ‘take away’ and we we are all better for it. I love that Coffee Shop, I got to experience our mission ‘to build an sustain a culture of peace and belonging’ and I didn’t have to do or say a thing.