Restorative Justice Circles address suffering by promoting story-sharing.

Transformation is always an opportunity in front of us.  Even with the best of intentions in the other person, our feelings are going to get hurt, there will be miscommunications, conflicts, disagreements.  As I ended a phone call, with someone disheartened by a conflict, I said “soon, we will be looking back on this and laughing about what we learned”  she sighed “I hope so”.  As a facilitator and Restorative Justice being, helping support and promote transformation take overt and covert statements and gestures!

I think have a post it note here, I think it was Brene Brown:

The Work of the soul . . . to transform suffering into something . . . LIFE GIVING . . . from a great loss to a great opening.

I believe we can do part of this kind of soul work, as we participate in Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circles.  The kinds of Circles that create an intentional container, use values, talking piece, stories, ceremony to bring people together to transform.

Transformation can happen for each and every person that fully engages in a RJ Peacemaking Circle.  I work very hard to help support all of our volunteers 3-5 per Circle in understanding, role modeling and sharing in ways that promote transformation.

When the Community Mentors in Circle open up and share inner strength and wisdom it helps others access their own.  We suggest our volunteers don’t tell others what to think, say or do . . . they relate a story to the Center of the Circle.  Those stories shared with openness, not directed, are more accepted by others.

For all in Circle, the harmed, the harmer the community mentor, in a togetherness created by Circle, we can address suffering.  Everyone speaks to the Center, everyone connects to the topic or question on the talking pieced.  This creates the oneness.  The individual opportunity is what you share about.  Opportunity exists to talk about life events in ways that demonstrate how   they opened us up to be more alive, to be more towards love and to find out how it made us, shaped us or changed us.

For example, in an underage consumption Circle, a community mentor shared the following story.  As a probation agent of 35 years (retired several years now), he had a case where two high school boys, good friends, good kids, athletes . . . had been out drinking, and the driver went off the road, hit a tree and the passenger was killed.  He talked about how hard these cases were, because the victim side would want punishment at a level that it was a very intentional act, and the side around the offender, felt the offender was suffering enough.  The story share, went on to reveal that when the time came, the probation officer was nervous, going in front of a Judge who used to give long prison sentences for this type of offense.  When he testified the probation agent got tears in his eyes for the situation and recommended a long probation time and a shorter jail time.  The Judge went with the probation officers recommendation.  The story went on . . . the retired probation agent, went to the Judges 90 year birthday party in the nursing home.  The Judge brought up the the case, the probation agent getting teary eyed and the power that had on the Judge going with the sentence recommended by probation.

That story combined with our curriculum, powerfully related how choices have a ripple effect.  Clearly the probation agent suffered a bit in that situation, and similar ones like it and he had many with 35 years of being an agent.  We later talked and he called them “capsulated stories”.  I got the visual of these floating around inside of him, waiting to come to the surface like bubbles.  Restorative Justice Circles, help community support community by transforming the suffering of the victim, the offender and the community.

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