Honoring Values and Embracing Change

I was out of state with my partner, his son had recently died unexpectedly. The fragile nature of life and the importance of family was in my breath and pulsing in my veins. Things that are important really find the surface in times of loss and grief. A breath of relief had arrived and funeral arrangements were very close to being finalized. Next, I get a call that my Dad had a health issue. His vision in one eye went blurry. He himself shared his concern. This is a man who waited a day to go to the doctor with a bee stinger in his eyeball. This is the man who unsaddeled his horse and got him out to pasture, while his hand “was facing the wrong direction”. Needless to say if my Dad was concerned, I was concerned. I was afraid of a mild stroke. It turned out to macular degeneration, caught early, with medical intervention the progression of vision loss could be slowed.

Just a week later suprising news from my Mom, my Dad suggested they sell the farm and move to town. Wait, what? It’s been in the family since 1904, homestead by my great-grandparents. The house they lived in, was home, my home, my Dad’s home, my Grandparents home, and my Great-grandparents! That got my siblings to call me. We all had our feelings, yet it was Dad’s decision. A values training activity to Restorative Justice Circles is to imagine having a conversation with your family. You and your siblings don’t agree on the inherited family business. The question is after the conversation, how do you want to be remembered. I recalled this activity from my 2002 Circle Training with Kay Pranis. I want to be respectful, kind, generous. And so . . . I offered support.

March 3, news of Dad’s vision. March 9, they are selling the farm. March 21, my parents visit and we enjoy a fundraising dinner for SCVRJP. That afternoon I made pies and had a great visit with my Dad. He seemed at peace with his decision to move to town. I saw my Father, as aging and aware of times in life he had no fears. He is living his reality of age, declining health. I felt love and compassion, I felt fortunate for the strong relationship and connection to my family. I wanted to be like my Father, and really live life as life is. On March 22nd, I learned my Dad didn’t want to sell everything. So, I offered to come home and help. I decided that if my parents needed to move to town, I could come home.

Honestly, at first, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea. I slept on it, I thought and I thought. As I held the idea of leaving SCVRJP, it opened up the potential to just do Restorative Justice differently. At the fundraising dinner, I felt a sense of a new chapter, an accomplishment or new level for SVRJP. The board of directors had fully handled the event, they did an awesome job! SCVRJP is in our community. Leaving might cause it to look different. The question came to mind about making this change. I thought about seasons, I decided to give the summer to making the transition. By April 1, I had made up my mind. I was going to leave, and take the time to find what I want to do next.

My heart is at peace about my decision. I will miss many, many people. However, I will enjoy a slowed down pace. I’m ready to put 12 hour days behind me. Non-profit director work requires a lot. I am looking forward to doors that might open if I finally get that book written, or I focus on being a free-lance consultant. Those thoughts are for the fall. Right now, this summer, is about helping SCVRJP turn the page to a new chapter. Many people have contributed gifts of time and resources. On behalf of all the past volunteers and especially our speakers that share stories, I am going to see that the transition is positive. The last lap of my service here begins, I want to say THANK YOU, to all of you that shared in part of the last decade.

Restorative Justice made me a better Rodeo Clown!

My friend wanted to have a birthday around her bucket list item of getting on a mechanical bull.  So I helped by making a flyer, and rodeo numbers for party guests.  As the day approached, I teased someone I was gonna have “Happy Birthday” on my bloomers, so when I fell off the bull that would show.  We had a good laugh about that and somehow the joke that I would be the rodeo clown was born.  In 24 hours I had gathered things for an outfit, including a cowboy hat with curly rainbow clown hair!

At a nice place at the Mall of America, I went to the restroom as me, and emerged and Bandi the Rodeo Clown.  I got looks, and laughs, kids wanted to take pictures with me.

Someone asked me if I had been a clown before.  I guess my skills looked experienced.  As I reflected on this silly evening of fun, I recognized the parallels and contributions that being a Restorative Justice practitioner provided me!

Courage to be different.  It’s becoming more recognized that we need to address social-emotional learning in schools, and we need to address first-offenses differently.  We need to change the way we do business when it comes to changing behavior.  My work takes me alongside courts, human services, corrections, and approaching it from a very different model.  Asking what people need, where others ask what they deserve sets me apart sometimes.  Service providers are moving much closer to Restorative Justice, with trauma-informed work, needs assessment and services that consider how to help instead of just how to punish.

Tenacity.  If you watch the video, I try quite a few times.  Despite the obvious fact that stockings are way to slippery, I try to make a decent ride.  To keep a non-profit going, constant juggling of needs and priorities: board, finances, staff, services, marketing, grants, volunteers.  I keep the majority of Circles and maintain a caseload.

Emotional Climate.  I accidentally went right off the otherside on my first try to get on that bull, that is where the video starts.  I got a lot of laughs, so much so, later I intentionally go right over the top to make everyone laugh.  When teaching or training I usually share these two piece of wisdom:

A smile is the first stage of healing.

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.

I didn’t invent those statements, I’ve just used them so much I don’t remember where I heard or learned them.  They have become the way I believe, live and act.

When Restorative Justice becomes part of the fiber of your being, you live the message.  Not perfectly, we are human.  It seems to me I lived out some of Restorative Justice when I did something for the relationship, and the manner in which I was Bandi.  You can see what you think!

http://youtu.be/zW1fClRv4-o

 

 

Finding your keepers heart, encouraging the heart of others.

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 tweetThose 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.

Circle with diverse members, harmed, harmer and community role models.

What a fortunate place I have, having kept 1,000’s of Circles in a range of contexts.  I’ve also been fortunate to train a few hundred in the process, allowing me to hear stories back on what worked well, and what was a lesson.

It is soo important that Circles have a diverse mix of perspectives.  This takes time, in training youth or community volunteers about the dynamics of participating in Circle.  However, by training others, you yourself will be learning more about the fundamental belief systems that make Circles work.

I believe that Circles are more effective that a victim-offender conference.  For one they include others, this allows for additional perspectives to the harm, and for more perspectives on how to repair it.  Circles that include victim, offender and community are more aligned with core restorative philosophies.

The diversity in a Circle makes is rich in perspectives.  Once we hear other perspectives are minds stretched and a stretched mind never fully returns to the original.  I could also insert heart here.

I was observing a young person across from me.  It was a “disorderly conduct” referral.  She was listening to a story about a domestic violence.  The storyteller remembered a moment in a hospital bed, her brothers wanted to go beat the abuser, and she just wanted it all to stop.  A life changing moment was being shared.  The storyteller spoke of the dedication to not raising her daughters around violence.  I observed a very, very engaged listener across from me.  As she rubbed her very pregnant stomach, I had hope for the unborn child.

Circles without trained participants to hold the values, to role model the process, aren’t spaces for strong personal growth.  As a plant grows strong against a breeze, the community stories lean into the reality of the listener.  If your Circle only contains those that broke rules and an authority, you haven’t moved your paradigm quite far enough.  That model might be a start, however, it is repeating the framework that only addressing the wrongdoing will help.  It might, but if you really want to get to change beyond the incident, and get to change connected to values, use diversity in your Circles.

If you are local or near River Falls, Wisconsin, please come volunteer to learn more.  Monthly volunteer orientation sessions are held and Circle Keeper Training is free to volunteers.

Restorative Justice: holding people accountable, holding them with heart, 3 steps.

St Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program (scvrjp), has specialized in Restorative Justice Circles.  Link here to see session descriptions.  Each Circle is attended by 4-5 volunteers, a keeper, a storyteller and few community mentors to help support the process.  We spend time training our volunteers in the philosophy and approach of Restorative Justice, we offer two-day Circle Trainings twice a year at no charge to volunteers.  If you haven’t volunteered for 6 months, we require a refresher “orientation”.  We offer volunteer in-service sessions with hopes our new and experienced volunteers can build relationships and deepen skills.

These strategies are built-in to ensure we are consistently reminding people of the skills of heart.  We work with deep consideration of the heart and brain.  People will be in one of two brain modes “approach” or “avoid” as a program supervisor, my job is to make sure our staff, our volunteers, our clients area all feeling in a place of engaging.  Since I can’t be everywhere and with everyone (we average a dozen sessions a month) it is crucial our climate and culture is shared and duplicated by everyone.  I recognize this is asking a great deal of people, and these 3 steps are useful in holding others in your heart.

1) Judge None.  You never know someone’s story.  Our brain makes categories of information, to quickly file things.  These categories help and hurt us.  It hurts when we judge others.  You never know the rest of the story about someone else’s life. For victims or offenders, the depth of who people are before and beyond the incident is endless. For RJ to be effective, the willingness to be open must emerge.  That means creating safety.  A non-judgemental atmosphere increases safety.

2)Be Open.  Being open, allows for volunteers to share their own experiences as they arise.  The boundary we use, is your sharing being access to inner strength and wisdom.  If you know your ‘lesson’ learned, then you are likely ready to share in Circle.  If you are still in curiosity or strain about the story, likely not one to share in Circle.  Being open takes courage.  A new volunteer recently experienced this challenge.  We were sharing our awareness of people who don’t use, and sharing why they might decide to do this (talking about use, non-use, abuse and addiction as relationship to substances).  She shared about a friend who lost a loved one due to substance addiction.  Later in the Circle, after reflecting on the story, she found incredible hope in the story, related it back to her friend, and was moved to tears as she shared.  She was open, she shared, and it was an incredible lesson for the rest of us in Circle witnessing.  Tears are often found in Circle, and they show the emotions difficult to express or the power of having our hearts touched.

3)Self-care.  Being a volunteer and holding others in your heart, means caring for your own heart.  Self-care is intentional acts or gestures towards honoring yourself.  Stories can be heavy in Circle, the awareness of larger social harms or complex relationships can leave you feeling you can’t make a difference.  Our program, our volunteers make a difference.  Some Circles you see the fruit and in some Circles you aren’t sure if you planted a seed.  What you can do, is (as we ask in Circle) govern your own experience.  Taking care of yourself, in  a good way, is a way to be connected to others.  Refresh, renew, revive if that means working in your garden, taking a bubble bath, attending church, yoga or a call to walk in the woods.  Your fresh presence brings hope to others!

Thank you SCVRJP volunteers!  We couldn’t deliver our mission without you!  Thank you to all the participants who join us in delivering this mission.  Our partners that refer cases, support the program and help us continue to build peace and belonging with Restorative Justice, THANK YOU!

Restorative Justice work as art and being. Three experiences one blog post.

An artist in the show, invited me to the reception.  Twice, so I knew it was important, and relationships are built by going out of our way.  Since I like art, it wasn’t THAT out of the way, so I attended.  Since I know the artist in a totally different context, I didn’t really connect “drawing from life” or the postcard, to what I was going to see.

Voila_Capture1018The gallery was set up with the center space showing the chair the model might sit in.  It became clear from the drawings, the models were nude.  Wow.  I took in the art, appreciated reading the artist statements.  I had just been to a deep meeting and discussion with someone preparing to meet with a surviving family member, in a multiple death traffic fatality incident.  The nakedness of the art, the beauty, reminded me of how we have to get emotionally bare when it comes to Restorative Justice dialogue.  As a facilitator when emotions are high, and grief over the death of a loved is present, you also become bare.  Your own heart is present and you (facilitator) are in it alongside those requesting and agreeing to dialogue.

Later I posted on Facebook, the echoes of this earlier conversation.  It really stayed with me, mostly the bravery of the young person, dealing with very adult issues.  The pre-session preparation was more intense, as we are getting closer to the actual face to face meeting.  The compliment shared was really great to hear as well.  The voiced confidence in SCVRJP and me, confirmed and supported the energy I was feeling about readiness for the dialogue to happen.

photo    This morning a comment on the Facebook post, struck a strong note with me.  Cameron Communicationz, “everything worth doing is an art”.  YES!  I always taught my daughter to know that art was never finished, if you “messed up” just keep coloring or drawing to work that in.  She might not remember that.  I was trying to counter my perfectionism rubbing off on her, but that’s another blog post.  In facilitating a severe crime case, such tender care is needed in exploring the needs of the victims.  Preparing parties to sit face to face after damage and harm, especially when a loved one has died, requires zero attention to your own perfectionism.  All ego of the facilitator needs to be removed, and working towards emotional safety and preparation is the art.

Restorative Justice as art.  That means co-creating with those around you.  That fits well, I teach that a Circle keepers job is to engage everyone as keepers in the Circle.  As I viewed the art in the gallery, there was no way the drawings could have emerged without the live figure (nude model).  Imagine the vulnerability to disrobe and be drawn . . . to me that feels incredibly powerful, a risk taken and completed.  As I looked at the art gallery drawings, I could see myself in some of the drawings.  We connect to art, and I believe we connect to each other in Restorative Justice.  Reflections of ourselves in others.

The link between art and Restorative Justice got me thinking about the similarities.  Using different methods, improving over time, finding yourself in the art you create.  Learning what others interpret or see in your creations.

I got emotionally overwhelmed at the art gallery.  I felt like crying.  I was moved by the courage I felt in the drawings and the honesty expressed.  I enjoyed visiting with the person that invited me.  It was a real lesson, on people being more that you might know.  The restorative justice meeting, the gallery reception, the Facebook comment. Three randomly disconnected things, all now connected in this blog post.  And isn’t that what life and Restorative Justice is all about . . . connections.

Doing restorative justice delicately, deliberately and with dedication.

I have the very good fortune of having a champion of Restorative Justice as a friend and mentor.  Kay Pranis was the Minnesota Restorative Justice Planner.  She’s seen so much in the field, she’s traveled the world teaching and training.  She’s Kay_Pranis2published books, journal articles, and well, she’s a voice of authority to me regardless.  It is her quality of a person, her calm nature, her wisdom to guide my reflections, thoughts, questions.  This quote, reminds me of Kay:

When you meet a being who is centered – you know it – you always feel a kind of calm emanation, it always touches you in that place where you feel calm.

The things we explore bring us back to key concepts, best practice, ethical efforts.  As practitioners of Restorative Justice, I think being delicate, deliberate and dedicated as I have experienced Kay, and tried to be myself, is helpful.

Being delicate.  Holding offenders accountable, while holding and creating a strong relationships.  Relationships, respect, responsiblity the key pillars of Restorative Justice, can’t me created with force.  Check out this link, at 2:30, the segment is promoting OWN Chalkboard Wars.  I love how Gayle King puts it “if kids don’t think you care, they don’t care what you think”.  Circles are the most powerful and effective ways to show kids you care, and to teach kids a way to care about each other.

One of the most important things to teach, when teaching people about Restorative Justice Circles, is structured silence.  AND doing this has to be both delicate and deliberate.  When you role model vs direct, inform, tell people how to behave, you have them learn for themselves.  This takes a deliberate and dedicated embrace of equality.  There are skills, activities, techniques, to bring youth in Circle to the respect of listening one at a time.  This is where empathy develops, an equal exchange and balance of voices in the room.

Being dedicated to Restorative Justice, means avoiding shortcuts, or developing routines, it means continuous exploration of the meaning and purpose of Restorative Justice values.  Each case is unique and should be treated as such. For example, victims should be given the choice of being seated in the room, or walking in the room where the person who caused harm is seated. All sorts of responses from this evolve, however the CHOICE is empowering.  Question yourself, discuss with a mentor.

Being delicate, deliberate and dedicated doesn’t mean without strength.  One teacher, who uses Circle soooo effectively, kept a Circle for students (she’s a pro, doing at least 2 a day in her classroom).  A co-worker, new to the process, experienced a Circle with her, and when it was done, the new coworker said “WOW, I didn’t know you were so powerful”, the teacher: “it’s not me, it is the Circle”.

Where are you most delicate?  Where could you be more so?  What are you very deliberate about, what could you do more intentionally?  Thinking of these questions, will show your dedication to effective Restorative Justice practice.

Developing Restorative Justice Circle Intuition.

The first step is to gain knowledge, the ‘how to’ of a Restorative Justice Circle.  Then you develop experience, those experiences lend to your understanding and ability to predict what happens.  Pour in some passion, some real care and authenticity to your work and you’ll develop an effective style of Circle Keeping.  That blends to provide Circle intuition.

A few knowledge pieces:

  1. It is good to know, the four stages of Circle.  How to move between the four, and what the philosophical rational is behind each stage.
  2. Members in Circle reflect your relationship.  Build connections as soon as you can with those in Circle.  This can happen in pre-conference (preparation meetings) or as you engage people coming to the session.
  3. Each Circle has something to offer you as a lesson.  The Circle is the power, and in that the wisdom.  Create safety, and people will share.

A bit about passion:

From the website:  http://www.chforum.org/library/choice6.shtml
From the website: http://www.chforum.org/library/choice6.shtml
  1. Being passionate, is bringing your special relationship to Circle/Restorative Justice.  Don’t leave what you find of value about Circles or your own values outside the Circle.
  2. People respond to genuine and authentic individuals, own your passion, and allow others the freedom and space to own theirs.  I was working with an experienced group, I shared that I told a reporter I was a Circle-freak, some else shared being a Circle-addict.  I’ve heard Circle-hog, as an apology for always suggesting Circle.

Experience:

  1. Nothing substitutes for experience.  You can read about riding a bike, or swimming, nothing like the experience.  It is not just the experience of keeping, the experience of participating in Circle.  Find places to be in Circle.
  2. Watch keepers, develop outlines, find a mentor, ask questions about the style and use of questions and techniques.  An experienced facilitator will make decisions and guide a process for a reason.
  3. Create your own experiences if needed.  I had a teen Circle for my daughter and few others, that was enough to give me two extra experiences a month.  For a short time, I hosted ‘New Moon’ Circles, to give space to talk about values.  Use a Circle demonstration when going to give an explanation of Restorative Justice.

Intuition is developed when you become more natural.  Intuition is the deep inner knowing.  Restorative Justice Circle intuition allows a keeper to move confidently.  Consider the experience of each and every person in Circle.  Seek to balance the needs of each person.  When someone is sharing, observe how that is changing or impacting the emotional climate in the room.

When keepong, you have a general sense and an idea of where the Circle will go, you don’t control the outcomes for each individual.  This balance requires an intuition about Circles.  The more you develop knowledge, passion, experience and intuition, the more you will be invited to keep and the deeper and more effective the Circles will be.

The healing potential in Circle, life after death and the wisdom of lived experience.

As a Circle-keeper, some Circles are so powerful and moving, life lessons around humanity resonate to the very core.  I’ve often said & blogged, that if you are doing ‘Restorative Justice’ well, it changes you.  When something changes you, you remember it.  The kind of change I am talking about is a deeper understanding of others.  The change that comes with an ‘ah-ha’ we are all having a similar experience.  We all have more courage, more strength, more wisdom than we thought.

The Circles that are hanging in my heart and mind, have been ones where we have put the trauma of death in the center.  We have taken the 4 stages of Circle, and put next to them, the 4 phases of Restorative Justice Story telling.

As part of Restorative Response, a program of SCVRJP, the community can request a Circle.  Restorative Response is a program to address healing after un-natural death.  For example homicide, suicide, traffic fatality, drug-overdose, accidents that might cause a sudden, unexpected loss.

Reseach & training has taught us that un-natural death includes additional elements to process.  This includes 3 “V’s”, the violence, violation and volition.  By speaking and listening to one another in Circle, you can begin to let the process of talking about these 3 “V’s”.

I’ve been amazed at these ‘life after death’ Circles. Hearing each others stories, reduces isolation, increases understanding and promotes peace of heart.  I firmly believe: Circles Heal.

It seems these Circles include 3 “C’s”.  Carry-on, Cope, Continue – life after death.  The first is how we ‘Carry-On’ after a loss.  This is the basic and immediate reactions upon hearing or seeing a traumatic event.  By sharing where we were when we got the news, or the parts of the incident that have left images, the burden is lifted.  There is wisdom in survival.  Talking about these pieces helps everyone in Circle feel more connected and have a bit more understanding.  Some traumatic deaths, homicide and suicide, really leave gaps in understanding.  Getting understanding from others helps.  Especially when, collectively we don’t understand “how could someone . . .” or “why” something happened, getting more understanding helps with areas where there is none.  Circles reinforce the first C- to Carry-On.

The second C is Cope.  When you speak about the impact of an incident, you get to relate your own individual impact and experience.  This allows each person a chance to be heard by everyone.  To be listened to is to be validated.  To listen builds empathy.  The action of ‘coping’ is heard within each story of how you are impacted.  We share what we are left to cope with, releasing the burden that we are doing that alone, because others listening to this, helps us.  We are wired for connection, empathy is a powerful tool in humanity.  Circles bring this forward.

The final C is Continue.  How do we Continue on after trauma, how do we find life after death.  For some these C’s could take years, or they could be spiral experiences that you move through again and again.  In Circle, people exchange their experiences in finding hope and resiliency.  This happens in the reflection part of the story or the taking action phase of the Circle.  Finding hope and resiliency are important stages to remind us the story we tell ourselves is as important as the experience.  You plant seeds of hope when you ask each person to share about their resiliency or their ‘post traumatic growth’.  Wisdom is really apparent at this stage.  The sense of hope is compounded by the fact people just shared some really, heavy stuff (the incident, the impact).  The ability to ‘Continue’ is reinforced by the sense that we are all in this together.  We all experienced this traumatic event, we all have different parts, yet together we can move ahead in COMMUNITY.

The work to move life forward when others have passed, the power of healing.

A recent Facebook status:

The journey from survivor to thrivor takes courage.  I followed her into the coffee shop and saw the tattoo with names of the deceased across her back.  Three relatives died in that traffic crash 4 years ago, after 9 months of meetings and prep work, she will soon be meeting the driver of the other vehicle involved.  It is powerful work, what some do to heal.

Restorative Justice is grounded in 3’s – Victim/Offender/Community.  Howard Zehr’s 3 pillars: Harms & Needs, Obligations, Engagement.  (Four Words!).  The SCVRJP logo has 3 swirls, with the 4th the white background, the 4 colors of the Lakota Medicine Wheel.

I believe we have a 4th in those we address and engage in Restorative Justice.  Victim-Offender-Community and Collective.  Four sections of the Circle.  Four stages of Circle process, 4 words in the 3 pillars of Restorative Justice.

“Collective”  is bigger and broader than community.  When I think of engaging “community” in Restorative Justice I am asking my law enforcement officers, school staff, citizens, bystanders and others connected to the specific incident.  When we do preventative work, our audience becomes the community.  For example a Teen Driving Circle in a Drivers education classroom, creates a community listening to an offender or victim.  Collective is those impacted further and beyond the immediate community.  Teens go home and tell parents about the powerful story heard. I remember when my daughter was in high school, she was a football cheerleader so I attended football games. After the Restorative Justice work at the school, several parents came to me with questions because their children talked about the Restorative Justice experience.

The ripple of Restorative Justice work goes far and wide, I believe it has impact on the universal human collective.  By addressing Mental, Physical, Emotional and Spiritual aspects Restorative Justice must reach beyond, and that ‘Spiritual’ aspect would be the collective.  When you do loss of life work, you speak about the survivors views on the after life.  You talk about what the deceased would want the living to be doing.  Deceased are usually viewed as spirits or angels, you accept what that survivor defines – and usually the view from heaven, that higher perspective is a spiritual one.  In a spiritual view of things, values always emerge.  Love, forgiveness, compassion, etc, etc. by creating the energy of these things, Restorative Justice impacts the collective.

The collective impact, when people heal from tragedy can be felt.  The two women that will be doing a Victim-Offender dialogue, are exploring what speaking together might look like.  The offender has been speaking about her experience of distracted driving.  The consequences and the lesson is being shared with others to prevent a similar harm.  If/when these two begin to speak together, they will not only have the story of the crash, they will have the story of their journey of Restorative Justice.

I often say, “when we share accessing our own inner strength and wisdom, we help others do the same”.  To access your inner strength and wisdom.  Restorative Justice is the process and the venue for people to access and put this strength and wisdom to use.  Some people need the connection to the other person most connected to the incident.  That is why some victims request Restorative Justice in loss of life incidents.

Can you imagine the courage it would take to meet with the person driving the car that caused a crash that killed 3 of your relatives?  Most people initially hearing the thought of loved ones killed, think about revenge or retaliation.  Those two “R”‘s are phases people go through and some stay there.  Others move to the “r” of restoration, and that is where healing and moving life forward happens.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to accompany a number of people, seeking Restorative Justice after loss of life.  Each person leaves me changed.  Each case influences the next, because I have a broader, deeper understanding of the pain and suffering from losing a loved one suddenly.  Each person is unique and they are treated as such and with the utmost respect.  It keeps me humble and grounded to recognize and realize this work is not just for the victim, the offender and the community.  This work is for the collective.  Mankind can do better and be better when we seek to heal with each other.