Circles include earned and learned wisdom, formal and informal support.
There are two ways we get smart about things – we experience it or we take someone else’s story and decide to do it, or not do it.
When we are seating in Restorative Justice Circles, we take time to listen. We listen like sponges. It just happens that way. The values have been determined and used as our “way” of relating to each other. We speak one at a time, we share perspective by perspective. Just as each second on a clock happens from a different place, so do the stories shared in Circle. Just as the commonality of time passing happens with each second that clicks off a clock, the stories have a commonality of being human.
Teaching people to listen without judgement is crucial to a Circle. Giving people the permission, to not have to react to what is being said helps. The communication loop is person-to-center, instead of person-to-person. We observe the loop or relationship a person is sharing. Without judgement we “hear” that person’s earned experience.
Once you “earn” your paycheck you have it. You “earn” your experience. Just like you can blow that paycheck, have it be gone with no investment in the future, you can blow your experience and not invest it in the future.
Talking about our “earned” experiences in front of each other allows others to learn from them.
One of our volunteers relates his life that includes going in and out of prison. Being high a week after being out. How crime was needed to fuel the need for more drugs. This story is shared as part of a larger program addressing controlled substance use. It works.
It works, because we care. We listen first and teach second. We let the person in the session be heard and participate in Circle. We all add a value to the Center. We all hold the potential to add value to our communities. Restorative Justice does this like nothing else I have ever experienced.
Formal support comes from people paid to do what they do. Informal support is people who act because they care. Think about that from your pizza delivery and the friend that made you soup. The airport shuttle ride or the friend that gives you a lift. Formal support is a therapist, informal support is a great conversation with a close friend.
We all know someone who can be a great therapist, hair stylist or store clerk, because they care. It’s kind of like that with SCVRJP, and I hope all restorative justice programs. The use of volunteers, bring in people just cause they care. As a non-profit, we are less funded (more like a friend, not getting paid for that ride to the airport). We address the areas that the community needs, vs what the government decides we need.
I’ve read that you need both good formal support and strong informal support to reduce symptoms of PTSD. I always to apply what I read in academic research to my life. Makes sense to me, fits for the times in my life I struggled.
We are relationship creatures. I so appreciate that restorative justice can bring our relationship to our experiences to others. Restorative Justice also brings relationships to people formally or informally, and that just helps us all grow.