Today in Bikram Yoga, the teacher introduced me to a new term. “Yoga Buzz”. We do a pose that gets your heart pounding like you ran up a set of stairs. In reality it’s a backward bend in 104 degree heat. I love it. It’s not for everyone. In one class I remember thinking “am I going to pass out”. This morning when she said “Yoga Buzz”, I had to quite my mind and relax, but not before I could relate it to restorative justice, and start to wonder about a “restorative justice buzz”.
I know exactly what that is, a “restorative buzz”. Let me tell you about a few this week.
Monday at the SCVRJP board meeting. We use “interactive meeting” format. This includes an opening question and a closing ranking of the meeting. The opening question kind of reminds me of my days back in 4-H. There was always a “roll-call” question. Well, that is what the interactive meeting format question is like. This month the question was “what aspect of restorative justice do you think is most valuable to the community”. There were two things that gave me the restorative buzz. The first was the going around the room, one voice at a time. This obviously was very much like a circle. A circle is where I feel safest and most confident with my fellow human beings.
The second part of the buzz, was from hearing the terms and words my board members used. I lost track of if he was talking about the offender or the victim, it applied to both. Board member was saying that the punishment of pain and hurt does not have to be taken on forever. RJ gives a place to process the hurts.
Someone else described how Restorative Justice both closes and opens things for people. It brings closure, to an issue, yet opens up future possiblities. I thought I was going to shed a tear! Seriously. Other comment that were very important included how we make victims a full and equal partner in repairing harm. The reflection on what happened is part of the process, and teens need help both in how to, and what to reflect on.
I’ll never forget an apology letter: “I’m sorry you left your keys in the car”. We went back to the drawing board on that one.
Let me share my other “buzz”. I particularly enjoy weaving the lives of victims and offenders together. At our victim impact panels, we strive to have speakers that have been vicitm or offender. Sometimes the speaker is a survivor or community member. I usually greet the speakers, we sit in the front row together. The speakers don’t have far to walk to speak.
Now I need to confess, I haven’t been to a victim impact panel for a few months (thanks to dedicated volunteers). At our most recent panel, my speakers all stayed in the back of the room together. I sat all alone up front. What gave me the buzz, was my team back there. After each one would speak and return to the area they were sitting in. They hugged, every time. Speaker one finished and got a hug. Speaker two finished and returned to get another hug. It was just between them, the hug exchanges. It looked like the speaker that just finished was the reciever. The speaker that just gave a hug, came up to speak and when she returned to the back, she got a hug.
I’m always amazed at the speakers ability to see beyond what someone else did in the past, and honor what they are doing in the present. One of our speakers was a police officer, the drunk driver that T-Boned his squad car into a light pole died. The Officer was forced to retire and faced numerous medical and health issues in the years that followed. He started coming to the panels to help me get people registered. He told me he had issue with a room full of offenders. I encouraged him to treat everyone kindly. He finally told me his story.
I got him to speak about it at victim impact panels. He ended up being a support person for a young woman that killed someone drinking and driving. She was an excellent speaker and a VERY accountable offender. When she would leave the room, crying, after telling her story, it was the retired Officer that went to console her. He once told me, he told her “if I can forgive you, anyone can”. Later the retired officer told me how speaking helped him.
He said, “for nearly 20 years I would wake up and the first thing I would do was to get mad. To hate the bastard the drunk driver that hit me. I don’t do that anymore”.
I think maybe I’ll just live life buzzed by miracles like that.