I was blessed again this week. I had some wonderful Circle experiences. The story I would like to share happened at 1/2 way house.
The house serves men in recovery and returning to the community from prison. Most of them I guess have been to prison, the one man that is still in high school, I suspect he has not yet been to prison, but must have clearly been on that path.
The Circle had 16 people present. I brought two of my advanced RJ students and a storyteller/volunteer. One staff from the home and 11 of the residents participated.
I had each student and the volunteer, pick a piece of introducing the Circle. We sat across from each other in the Circle. I like to do that, so mix up and disperse the leadership of the process. After each of us had explained a portion of the Circle, I did the standard things I do for each Circle.
1.) Read the Opening
2.) Paperplate – values round
3.)Committtment to the Values
4.)Getting Acquainted Round (what is your favorite slice of pie)
5.)Buidling Relationships Round (a story about seeing one of the Values/words on the plates in action)
6.)Addressing Issues Round (volunteer told his story)
7.) Taking Action Rounds (reflection on the story/what you will take from the Circle/anything else to say to leave the Circle in Peace)
So as casually as I have typed these out, and literally done the process 100’s of times. I still get the feeling I had that evening (and many other times). The Circle draws you in, one person speaking at a time. Collective smiles of understanding when for a third time someone said “Chocolate, French Silk Pie”. Then the powerful silence during a story.
The listening takes on something a little different, you can, in the silence, almost feel and taste the lesson sinking in. One person sharing a tragic unintended event.
Then the rounds of reflection and take aways. Many offered support to the speaker, many reflected on how powerful the lesson was. Several men shared the impact. I was particullary struck my a fellow to my right.
His name was the same as our volunteer. I got that on the first round, and since the speaker was across from me, I remember thinking – “hmmm, I wonder if this will hit him a little harder, sharing the same name”. I can’t help it, I’m judgemental (I try not to be). This fellow looked very ‘farmerish” to me, I think he had on flannel, he was simply in haircut and had a boyish innocence to him. Yet I knew better, he was in the 1/2 way house.
He ended up saying something so deep and profound towards the end. And his words were so powerful because of the way and manner in which he spoke them. He was very strong and very much the opposite of my judmental assessment. I am simply going to leave you with what I heard.
You know . . . you look around this Circle and you see 16 very different individuals. Yet, you look at these values, here in the center – on these paperplates . . . you can see that really . . . deep down . . . we’re all alike. Focusing on these values just blows me away. I can’t get over it, it’s powerful, we all want and need the same thing.”