Here’s the cast of characters:
College student, doing his internship
Law enforcement officer
Alternative School Teacher
Community Member, plants park flowers
High School Exchange Student
Elected City Official & SCVRJP Volunteer
Community Member & SCVRJP Volunteer
Community Member, lives by the park, emailed concerns to the Mayor a few months ago
7 students from the alternative school, 4 completed Circle Training, 3 new to the process
With me, that makes 16 people in this Circle. The Circle was orginally an idea that grew out of a Circle Training that was held just ONE month earlier. No kidding, from Oct 3rd, when it orignally came up to a November 6 Potluck and Circle. Circle training really invites a change in perspecitve, it deepens your view of community. It allows the space to speak a concern. The students voiced concern over the area parks. Being blamed for bad things that happened at the park. It was obvious they wanted a place to speak these harms and needs. Community members at the training knew there were community concerns. I suggested that we hold a Circle. Of course, my answer to everything is to Circle.
We meet, meaning the students the community volunteers, the teacher involved or a regular basis. The first meeting I felt like I was hearding cats! We use the Circle process, but sometimes the talking piece just isn’t enough to structure the conversation. We met again, two weeks later. The students had drafted a flyer and shared that vandals had also stuck at the park, spray painting inapporpriate messages. That evening the students and their teacher helped me co-lead a Circle with a confirmation class. After that we all went to a Coffee Shop, open mic night and circle question planning. The Circle was a week away!
The days were going by fast, the word about the Circle was circulated between volunteers, and the students made flyers, took personal time and hung these around town.
I walked in the gym and was nearly moved to tears! The students had a Circle of chairs. The Center was ready with our ribbon circle from training, and the talking pieces made at the same training. Was I ever pleased to see some new students, concerned and willing community members and public officials. We ate together a sweet little potluck of sub sandwhiches, tuna salad, mac and cheese, chips and salsa, cookies, pop, water and juice.
I guided everyone to the Circle. The students did great! I felt nervous and maybe said more than I needed to get us started. One of the young people added “Circles are a strong container and can hold alot of emotion”. How very appropriate. She read her opening which was very aware and focused on personal responsibility.
The mood was light, and connections made in the first stage as we all shared what our favorite piece of playground equipement was, when we were kids. We each took turns sharing what a perfect day at the park would look like, to us. Different perspectives, but the connections deeped and the process was going well.
I became a little concerned about time, and moved right into the third stage. addressing issues. I simply asked how people are impacted by vandalism, fighting and just bad stuff at the park. Personally I learned alot. Someone that cares for the park even became tearful and suprized herself at the emotions that surfaced in sharing about this. We got to understand that money going to repairs doesn’t leave money for upgrades. We learned everyone wants a clean park, shared by different groups and generations.
We learned our young people don’t have a place to go. We learned that calling the cops isn’t a good idea, for fear of retaliation or revenge. We learned groups can be intimidating whether they mean to be or not.
The problem solving and taking action stage included smiling, being friendly to others. Filling the space with good, to keep out the bad. One person realized that a young person being offended by the vandalism and also being blamed for it, would be a real negative. That showed me she considered the shoes of another. When law enforcement thanked a teen, her expression said it all. I did have to ask later “Did you ever think you’d be thanked by the Police”. She said she almost fainted.
I don’t feel like my words are conveying the POWERFUL experience we had. At the end of the reading I said “handshake, high five, or hug to somebody else in the Circle” people immediately followed that action. It was really really energizing to see.
The person that keeps the flowers, she now has 3 young people helping her on the next gardening outing. The students may form a group that helps label the plants for educational purposes. As a group we may take part in a “adopt a park” program. The conversation was inspirational. A young person commented, next time I tell someone to stop doing something bad at the park instead of saying “hey don’t, someone might call the cops”. I’m going to say “Hey don’t, that hurts someone else’s feelings”.
Together we showed we care about our park, students, community members, public officials. It was a mighty fine Circle!