It has been an emotional and powerful season of work. A group of practitioners met to begin a deeper look at healing not only the incident of harm, but deeper wounds and trauma when additional deeper harm is present. That means looking at differences in race, power, gender, any status differences between people participating. Not everyone comes with an understanding of history and how past traumas do impact our present engagements. Some spaces of open-hearted work for me included:
- I opened up my work for examination, when I might not have had awareness to negotiate “it wasn’t racist” rejection of the emotional harm caused by behaviors. I was challenged to hold the space for others that wanted to offer advice. (this advice was RJ 101, and things I had of course done, but did not relate in the brief time I had to offer). The goal in the end was to find ways we might promote increased ‘restoration’ when working to repair harm.
- I wept at the feet of a Native Elder, I apologized for the ways my ancestors treated hers. I expressed my shame, apology and feelings for not deserving to be practice Circle wisdom. She embraced me, hugged me, told me to keep going, that these things live in my heart.
- I met a group of Veteran advocates and Veterans where they are home. I rubbed my chin when they showed me the square table they use for Circle. I could see that was important and significant to them. We began the Circle Training, with that table, and then I asked them for permission to move it. It was a powerful and significant training for Veteran work and Restorative Justice Peacemaking Circle process. I feel blessed it includes that story and demonstration of meeting Veterans and their advocates where they are.
I relate these 3 to demonstrate how to express having a Keepers Heart. Being a Circle Keeper is trying to live and model the values and principles of Restorative Justice. I have another list (twice as long) where I might have not carried the values and principles. Being a Keeper is letting go of control, it is not facilitating a Circle, it is bringing a presence that promotes understanding, empathy, compassion, deep listening and healing.
I am so blessed to work with a wonderful and dynamic group of volunteers. I have come to believe that our Restorative Justice Center success is based on the engagement of all these volunteers. I have been watching and looking at them to discover as much as I can, to be able to relate and share with others hoping to create space for Restorative Justice in their own communities.
When we gather as volunteers, it is different, we are not working with those in Circle that have been referred for service. We are able to discuss our intentions, our techniques, our success and our challenges. I noticed a common theme . . . working on themselves to be better people. I heard how Restorative Justice volunteering provides a challenge to be non-judgmental, to express caring and compassion. It struck me . . . restorative humility . . . the understanding that I am not better than anyone else and by helping others, I can help myself. (click to tweet) Those are my words to the concepts. That is what I will continue to model and promote in others . . . the Keepers Heart is honest, courageous, humble and generous.