I started saving the paper plates in 2007. Someday, I was going to summarize all the values, written on them. I’ve been trying to let go of my plate stack for over a year and a half.
I even started a different stack for 2010.
At each Restorative Justice Circle, I ask people to think of someone special. I pause let the brains in the room soak in the released ‘happy hormones’ as we think about those we love, and love us. Then I ask we write down on that plate the one most important value or characteristic. These plates shape the Center of the Circle, we put them on the floor in front of us.
We use consensus to have these as our circle guidelines. Men in half-way houses, they often write love. Jr high/middle school students, they often write respect or trust. I’ve seen values across time and place, from drivers ed class to prisons. From confirmation or college class people have an idea of how relationships work. Victimized, offender, Judge, teacher or prosecutor people have relationships and people know what is important.
I love the plates. I am manically optimistic about people. Its because one of the first things I get to know about a person, is a relationship value. It sets the tone for our time together, its crucial to doing deep work in a simple process.
SCVRJP responded to an increase in local suicides. We created a Restorative Justice response to suicide, after someone told me she had a dream about it. I just fired up my computer, created the flyer and emailed it to our Chief of Police. My phone rang within 30 seconds, he was calling to make sure copies would be available at the upcoming community awareness forum, on the same topic. It turns out this was a VERY important project for our community.
Space was made for people to share, to talk about the suicidal behavior of loved ones including parent, child, sibling, neighbor, co-worker, classmate and sometimes themselves. The depth of sharing, the depth of pain was enormous. The hope the strength the resilency of the human spirit was equally deep. These restorative response circles have also been attended by people wanting to be there, needing to storytell. The stories often had many of us in tears.
It took an emotional drain on me. After the first one, I worked at home the next day. I didn’t even shower, I was drained. The second one I had to take a long bubble bath, decompress myself. People in theses Circles will forever hold a special place in my heart.
In Circle we keep the confidence of the person, but we can talk about the experience. To try to describe that a group of strangers did what we did in these Circles, would seem absurd. I was there, I witnessed it. It’s the power of the ‘paper-plates’ and connecting using relationship values then using consensus to adopt those as our circle guidelines. This context creates a strong container. It’s really amazing what can be done in Circle. Its no wonder I have a hard time tossing out the plates, they create the connections.