On Friday afternoon two community members attended a Circle when Tom was to tell his story. The two community members are both students. One of them is a student in my advanced restorative justice class and the other is a college student who is doing is required service learning hours with SCVRJP.
Tom and I met a few years ago. Nearly three years after an car crash, he was charged with homicide by negligent use of a motor vehichle. The judge gave Tom 10 speaking engagements as part of his sentence. Tom also did time in jail and has to comply with all conditions of being a felon and 3 years of probation. So I met Tom as he began his speaking journey, he was 28 and I was struck by the heavy burden he carried for killing a friend. Tom did find a sense of relief that his friends family wasn’t vindictive towards him.
So my work and relationship began with Tom. First he lost my number, then his girlfriend threw out his notes. Next he was sick and couldn’t make it. We had him share in a Underage Circle, and I needed to process with him about body language. He sat back, kind of slouched in his chair. He didn’t seem like taking a life was that big of a deal. A scheduled speaking event and Tom called in sick. I let him go. I’ve just seen some people that just cannot connect to the harm they caused. To connect to it would be more than they could bear. That’s my perspective anyway.
About 8 months later Tom decided to try and email and see if we had any chances for him to speak. My coworker gave him a brief and polite ‘not really’. Three months pass by again. Tom calls and gets me. He’s direct, says he’s sure I’ll tell him to get lost. I told him I was disappointed, and he’s right he would have to earn trust back. Tom says he goes to jail if he doesn’t get his speeches done. I tell him I need him to commit to the process. He shares he is not a public speaker. I assure him, that none of our other speakers were Professionals who happened to have a bad thing happen to them. “The best person to tell your story is you, public speaking skills or not”. He agrees. I can tell that after months of working with other speakers I’ve got more responses to Tom’s resistance. I am able to work with his factual nature and counter every doubt he has in himself. I ask him to trust me. He says ‘yes’.
I had to be really funny and tell my coworker we would be seeing him again.
I test him by having him attend a Volunteer Orientation Circle. I have him meet with me to go over the story again. This time I have even more empathy since he releaved his public speaking fears. I notice his hands are shaking really badly and it’s just me he his telling his story. I give him some suggestions. We work out how, Tom can describe feelings. We take a little more out about other friends, we put in a little more about the Victim. Tom can’t bear to give an example about a time, he fears he won’t get through that memory out loud. I give Tom permission to add that in later, the stories grow over time and with telling.
I’ve got the ‘storyteller’ awakened in Tom.