Co-mingling of formal and informal support.

Formal support is a therapist, dr, professional, anyone paid to provide a service to you.

Informal support is the friend that brings a hotdish, gives you a ride to the airport, takes a late night tearful call from you.

Support helps if you have an incident.  By incident I mean anything that overwhelms your coping skills.  What you gain from having good formal support and strong informal support can reduce PTSD, help you with your healing.     I believe in both informal and formal support.  I’ve spent some years doing both; being a friend to friend, a therapist to families, being a family member to my family and being a social worker to teens.

As a restorative justice practitioner and non-profit director I get the best of both worlds.  I co-mingle formal and informal support.

It takes a mighty brave professional.  It takes a confident community member.  It takes balancing your head and your heart.  It transforms people to help them from a place of caring and compassion than a place of payment and role.  I know some darn good professionals, and believe me social workers and teachers are not in it for the money.  I don’t want to imply that, I am focused on how it feels to the recipient.  When someone is paid to bring me a beverage, I appreciate it.  When the guy I’m dating brings me a cup of coffee, I feel loved.

Some really great professionals are great, because of who they are as a person.  You can just tell when a person cares.  Think about the “have a nice day” at the checkout from the person saying what they are supposed to say.  Then the “have a nice day”, with a smile, eye contact and a sincere tone.

I know a teacher who gives up her prep time, to help the school with Circles.  She cares, and people who care will go outside the bounds of what they are being paid, with time, money, energy and committment.  I love those types.  I also have to be careful because I assume everyone is like that and they are not.  I ask because I am a co-mingler.

I rely on a Circle question when I have volunteer community members in Circle.  To get acquainted I ask “where would you be, what would you be doing, if you weren’t here?”.  This reminds those who are attending at the recommendation of the court, that others are in Circle because they WANT to be, not because the HAVE to be.  To hear the lady sitting next to you could be out riding her horse and is instead volunteering at Restorative Justice . . . how do you think that transforms a clients feelings about attending, those also in attendance?

Another great thing about co-mingling is that community members get to see professionals in action.  The police officer that talks to young people about traffic safety or a response to a call generated by the action of a young person educates us all.  The school staff that speak to young people as a mentor and not just as the disciplinarian, show all of us, genuine care and concern can be done with professional boundaries AND informal support co-mingled.

Community members want to see professionals be relatable, it increases their faith and belief in them.  To see a professional, be vulnerable and open up (not alot, just a little) reminds us they are human.  No one is simply the uniform, the job, the title.

Besides when you co-mingle interesting things happen, for example one volunteer is brining another smelt.  Only at a Restorative Justice Center!