This post is related to my post on countenance. I was about to get sidetracked with another story, I just said it was awesome story and I would post it. The title of this post ties into much of what happens in Restorative Justice. Victim Offender and Community members exchange stories. These stories help develop empathy, understanding while promoting an accoutability. So often behavior is driven by our stories. We don’t know what is behind someone else’s behavior, until we know their story.
Let me tell you about Wayne.
I had to ask him to leave a Victim Impact Panel. I could smell alcohol as I passed by our line of people waiting to register. So I got proactive and annouced in my polite-est voice “if you have been drinking, you will need to attend another panel”. I tried to read faces and see who might need to step out of line. No one did. I guess the fear of admitting was greater than the HOPE he would pass the breathalizer. Wayne failed his breathalizer, it registered a .02. I was called over to deal with the situation. I looked at the machine, looked at Wayne. Asked him to step outside the room with me. I explained that our speakers lives were changed traumatically by drinking and driving and to provide them a safe enviornment we promote a chemical free audience. I went on to explain that under the influence the message may not connect as it would to someone sober, since these are sobering experiences.
Wayne quickly and shamefully agreed and started to leave our conversation, I said we would see him next month.
The following month, Wayne called the office. He went back to the location, but our Panel was actually in another location. He didn’t realize or I failed to communicate that the location changes. Wayne told me he would have to go to jail if he didn’t get the panel done before the end of the month. Wanting to follow up with Wayne, I said he could come to the office and watch some speakers on video tape. I told him to check with his probation agent to see if that was okay.
Wayne arrived at the office and I was open, positive and pleasant. It was just the two of us. I asked him, if I could talk to him about something before we watched the tapes. Giving a person a choice is clears a pathway. We sat down across from each other. I really focused on being kind and open. I asked if he knew he was not supposed to drink before the panel. He got anxious, told me he knew that and he was sorry. I said it was fine, I wasn’t hurt by it, but I was curious as to why. Here is what Wayne told me:
A buddy of mine . . . he was drunk . . . and he ran into someone head on. He killed a groom on the night before his Wedding, he was coming home from his rehearsal dinner, my buddy killed him and he hasn’t been the same since, he can’t stay sober for what he’s done. I knew hearing those stories would make me feel for him.
I was speechless. I told Wayne that he just shared a tragic story. I confirmed that we have a lot of work to do around drinking and driving. We transistioned to Wayne watching the tapes. By the way our good friends at MN’s for Safe Driving have excellent resources like this.
Wayne watched three speakers. I shut off the video. Asked Wayne what he thought.
He asked me if I knew where he could go to get treatment.
I gave him a phone number. I wished him all the best.
I told that story nearly a year later, coaching a coworker to always be helpful. I left to attend a meeting. I was standing outside of the meeting and who walks out? Yes, Wayne. We saw each other and he said “oh Kris”. I also greeted him by first name. I asked him how he was, said I thought of him. He shared with me that he has been sober for almost a year. He had a sponsor and everything. I couldn’t believe it. The SAME day I told the story about him. I saw him.
You never know someone else story. You never know how their story can become yours.