A few favorite readings and some Restorative Justice Circle questions.

Life is a Sacred Journey   By: Carolyn Joy Adams

Your life is a sacred journey and it is about to change,

Growth, discovery, movement, transformation,

Continuously expanding your vision of what is possible,

Stretching your soul, learning to see clearly and deeply,

Listening to your intuition, taking courageous risks,

Embracing challenges at every step along the way.

You are on the path exactly where you are meant to be

                                                Right now

…And from here you can only go forward,

Shaping your life story into a magnificent tale of triumph,

                                                Of Healing,

Of courage, beauty, wisdom, power, dignity, and love.

An old man walked along with beach throwing starfish which had been stranded by the outgoing tide back into the ocean. There were hundreds of them to return to the water and obviously he couldn’t begin to accomplish that task. A cynical young person came along and asked in a most arrogant manner, “what possible difference do you think you can make for all those starfish?” The old man stooped down, picked up another and as he tossed it into the water he replied in a quiet confident tone, “For this one it makes all the difference in the world.”

Be Thankful

-Author Unknown

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,

For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,

Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,

Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes. They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary,

Because it means you’ve made a difference.

Its east to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who

Are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,

And they can become your blessings.

Untitled By: Dawna Markova

I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear

of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,

to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,

more accessible

To loosen my heart

until it becomes a wing,

a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,

to live so that which came to me as seed

goes to the next blossom,

And that which came to me as a blossom,

goes on as fruit.


The Guesthouse By: Rumi

This being human is a guest house,

Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, meanness,

some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

As a guide from beyond

The Way It Is By: William Stafford

There’s a thread you follow.  It goes among things that change.

But it doesn’t change.

People wonder about what you are pursing.

You have to explain about the thread.

But it is hard for others to see.

While you hold it you can’t get lost.

Tragedies happen; people get hurt

Or die; and you suffer and get old.

Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.

You don’t ever let go of the thread.


Whatever our hands touch,

We leave fingerprints!

On walls, on furniture,

On doorknobs, dishes, books,

As we touch we leave our identity.

Oh please wherever I go today,

Help me leave heartprints!

Heartprints of compassion,

Of understanding and love.

Heartprints of kindness

And genuine concern.

May my heart touch a lonely neighbor,

Or a runaway daughter,

Or an anxious mother,

Or, perhaps, a dear friend!

I shall go out today to leave heartprints,

And if someone should say “I felt your touch,”

May that one sense be your love,

Touching through me.

Stepping into the circle By: Christina Baldwin in Calling the Circle

It has always been scary

To step into the circle of firelight,

To show up in the company of strangers,

To ask for entrance or to offer it. Our hearts race—

Will we have the courage to see each other?

Will we have the courage to see the world?

The risks we take in the twenty first century

Are based on risks human beings took

Thousands of years ago.

We are not different from our ancestors,

They are still here, coded inside us.

They are, I believe,

Cheering us on.

Circle Questions

Getting Acquainted

If you weren’t here right now, what would you be doing?

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

One pro/con since we last met?

One positive that has happened to you this week?

What is/was your favorite school subject?

Favorite musical genre or artist?

If you were to describe yourself as a vehicle, what would it be?

What is your favorite soda?

What is unusual that has happened to you recently?

Check in- How has your month been?

What is your thanksgiving tradition?

What are you most grateful this year?

What is something that you have always wanted to learn?

What is your favorite food?

What is the best thing about fall?

What Christmas cookie best describes you?

What is a holiday tradition for you?

Building Relationships

What is a story of something you did as a child?

If you had a billion dollars, what top three things would you spend it on?

What is your dream job and why?

What is the first thing you notice about people?

What is a valuable lesson you had to learn, “the hard way”?

What is one thing you would like to change about yourself?

What is one value/asset you bring to the circle?

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?

What is your biggest obstacle in your life right now?

One skill you possess and how did you learn it?

One place you would like to travel to and why?

One person you look up to and why?

what is something bad you did as a kid?

What is something you notice about people? Why?

What is something that annoys you?

Who can you rely on and why?

Tell a story about your day/week/month?

What is something good and bad about the holiday season for you?

What significance does family play in your life? Good and bad

What is your most prized possession? Why?

Addressing the issues

What gives you hope?

What commitment can you make to yourself for the next month?

How can you support your peers? Family? Friends? Community Members?

One thing you want to change in your life?

How do you deal with tense situations?

What value do you most emulate?

What is a trait you admire in the circle?

What is the best thing about circle to you?

What is your greatest need to be successful?

What value do you think you bring to the circle?

What do you do when you are confronted with an uncomfortable situation?

How do you get support? /What fills your spirit?

How do you handle setbacks?

What is one encouragement that you have received when you have made a change in your life?

Who is someone that has transitioned in and out of your life but still has a lot of importance to you?

Taking action

What is one thing you will take away from this circle?

Anything you need to say to leave the circle in peace?

How can you make a difference – be different?

How could you describe this circle in one word?

What is a good memory of circle for you?

what value do you think you have to change?

What is something you have learned about someone in group tonight?

What do you plan on doing each day to honor your commitment to these values?

Reflection round- What did you think of circle today?

In-depth Training opportunities, advancing your Restorative Justice practice.

I believe that people change and grow.  One way to stay solid in your restorative justice practice, is to see advanced and specialized training.

I just signed up for a wonderful opportunity – STAR.  Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience.  I am excited to deepen my connection to something I find facinating and rewarding to do, help people heal from trauma.

I also want to promote some other offerings available at Eastern Mennonite University.

“Building Justice: Transitional and Indigenous Applications in Post-war Contexts”

When violent conflict divides a society, as Desmond Tutu once pointed out, it leaves in its wake trauma, broken trust, and discord—and no roadmap to find the way out. This course will focus on understanding and embracing a form of justice that satisfies human need, and will examine contemporary applications of justice in post-war settings. It will cover key theories and a multi-disciplinary approach to justice, and will also compare and critique contemporary structures such as the International Criminal Court, truth and reconciliation commissions, and restitution and reparation practices.  Special emphasis will be  given to innovations in hybrid justice models and practices that encourage the inter-generational transmission of restorative justice and a concern  for the common good .  

Taught by Carl Stauffer, June 13-17, 2011. For more information on the Summer Peacebuilding Institute or how to apply, go to www.emu.edu/spi or call 540.432.4490.

“A Systems Approach to Organizational Conflict: Transforming Conflict in Your Organization”

Conflicts within organizations are often seen as personality clashes or a breakdown in communication between two people or groups, but  many can’t be truly transformed until the systemic roots of the conflict have been uncovered and understood. This course will encourage participants to see conflict in organizations as a function of the relationship systems within the organization. Participants will first examine their own family of origin through the lens of family systems theory and then adapt that theoretical framework to assess an organization and its conflict dynamics. This is a highly interactive course, utilizing case study and role-play methodology and concluding with the opportunity to study an actual organization.

Taught by David Brubaker and Roxy Allen of InsideNGO. For more information on the Summer Peacebuilding Institute or how to apply, go to www.emu.edu/spi or call 540.432.4490.

Sample Circle script, a guideline that does not replace training.

I have always been resistant to scripts.  When someone is in converstaion with you, do they read from a paper?  Reading is best for with children on our laps and from books.

However, in order to teach the process and have others do it, you need to give some examples.  So I am sharing a sample script.  Each Circle is unique, the questions used should be unique.  The shell or outer rim (values, 4 stages, talking piece, open/close) should be the same.  The contents swirl within.  The experience should be like a labyrinth going in deep to conversation and coming back out.

A quote on Twitter today – spiritual growth happens with a change of perspectives.  Every Restorative Justice Circle should change some ones perspective.

When you “keep” a Circle you are making a committment to guide the process.  Knowing and understanding the approach in a manner that you can be flexible to the needs of the Circle, requires a deep understanding of the philosophy.  Training is crucial, being a participant in Circle is necessary to achieve the deep understanding.

The sample script:


St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program – Circle of Understanding


q  Hi, I am ____________ and I’ll be co-keeping Circle today. With ____________.  I have been training in Restorative Justice and talking Circles, and will be guiding our process today. 

q  Thank you for choosing to participate, and I am going to explain a little about Restorative Justice and Circles.

q  Restorative Justice – is focused on values, and that if we all live in good relationship values, we will all be safer and happier.

q  One way to do restorative justice is with the Circle process – Circles work because we are all equal, we all have difference perspectives and we all contribute to the Circle.  The Circle is for all of us.

q  There are a few things that guide Circle. I want to start by introducing the object that I hold in my hand. It is called a “talking piece.” When you hold the talking piece, you have the floor to speak, or to pass. You can pass, when you get the talking piece, this is by invitation, if you feel your silence speaks more, feel free to hold the talking piece until you feel you are heard.

q  When others hold the talking piece, you listen. The talking piece moves around the circle rather than across the circle. Please wait to respond to questions until the next time the talking piece comes to you. This is a way to give each person a chance to speak while everyone else listens as it is passed around the circle.

q  We listen and speak differently in Circle, than everyday life.  We speak from our heart, use our wisest words, and speak to not offend anyone else.  We listen for understanding instead of listening for right/wrong/agree and disagree.

q  Because this is a different way of communicating, we will have a short open and close to begin and end our time of communicating this way.

q  Confidentiality is another important piece of Circle – you can speak about your experience after the Circle.  Please don’t speak about the story that someone else told in Circle.

q  Any questions before we begin?


Opening Reading

q  (in your packet)


Step 1. Getting Acquainted: The conference has four parts.  The first part is getting acquainted and we will do that by identifying our values.

q  I am going to pass out paper plates and ask you to think of someone who is really important to you.

q  After you think of the person, think of the one quality or characteristic that makes that relationship go so well, without this ONE thing, it just wouldn’t be the same.  Please write that ONE thing on the plate, using these markers.

q  (wait for everyone)

q  I am going to pick up the talking piece now, and ask that we take turns, when you have it you speak and when you don’t have it, you have the opportunity to listen and allow everyone else to listen without interruption. 

q  Please introduce yourself, share your name, who you were thinking, what is on your plate, and why you picked that.

q  Circles are based on values, and if these are good for our relationships outside of Circle, I’d like us to have these be our values in this relationship as well. 

q  I am going to pass the talking piece, and ask for your commitment to honor the values, for the time we are in Circle.  If you don’t feel like you can honor the talking piece and honor these values, let us know how much you are willing to commit to.  I can honor these values.

q  Now we can do some more getting acquainted and practice the talking piece.

q  What is your favorite kind of dessert?

q  What is an activity or past-time you enjoy?

(make sure your circle is ready for the next stage and people are sharing, if not add a question or two here)

Step 2. Building Relationships: The second part of the Circle is to spend some time learning more about each other.  I am going to ask that you relate a story from your life, so we can build our relationship to each other.

q  Can you share a time that someone was REALLY there for you?  What was happening in your life, what did you need and what did this person do for you?

Step 3. Addressing Issues: The next part is the topic or issue phase. 

q  Have you ever experienced someone being mean to you, or addressing you in an angry manner?  Tell the story and share how you felt in that experience.

q  What do you do to make sure you are not being rude to others?

Step 4. Taking Action:

q  The final stage of Circle is to look back on what we have done, to all provide feedback on what we experienced together.

q  What did you learn here today, is there something you will do different to improve the community and your relationship to others?

q  Is there anything else you need to say to leave the Circle in peace?



q  Final Announcements (if it feels right, handshake, high five or hug . . . or say thank you to someone you did not know before)

q  Two more Circles 3/10 & 3/24 4-5:30

q  Read Closing (in your packet)


Thank everyone . . .

and . . .Thank You for being a Circlekeeper!