The power of storytelling, using stories in community and in connecting.

Stories are the most basic tool for connecting us to one another.  Research shows that storytelling not only engages all the senses, it triggers activity on both the left and the right sides of the brain.  Because stories elicit whole brain/whole body responses, they are far move likely than other kinds of writing to evoke strong emotions.  People attend, remember, and are transformed by stories, which are meaning-filled units of ideas, the verbal equivalent of mother’s milk.   – Mary Pipher

The above is from the book Writing to Change the World.  At Amazon, here.

I really love the use of written story, but I appreciate the oral story more, because it happens in Restorative Justice talking Circles.

There is something that happens when we listen to a good story.  We construct our story along side the one that we hear.  We can place ourselves into the other persons story.

Stories are, our gifts we give people.  We aren’t very good at listening so we don’t take the time for story.

My Dad is a lecturer.  He can explain something with more words than the constitution.  He makes rationale points, he doesn’t check in with the ‘victim’ of the lecture.  We all respect him and its a running joke in our family.  Our joking hasn’t changed him either.  I try to get my Dad to tell me stories about things.  I ask him where he learned something or how he knows it.  Without being rude and challenging him, it’s more because I 400px-Millais_Boyhood_of_Raleighwant the oral history of my family.

At my Dad’s 70th birthday party, my Uncle commented to my Dad.  He mentioned a look around the room and realizing “Jesus Christ, we’re the oldest ones here”.  We all laughed.  But it struck me.  My Grandparents used to be here at family gatherings.  The house on the farm, my Uncle and Dad grew up in.  So they went from kids to being the elders in our family.  It seems like it happened overnight.

I made sure we told stories as a family.  These stories connect us and when we tell stories in Restorative Justice, we create a kind of family that is the community of shared story.

No two Restorative Justice Circles are ever the same, and it is the stories that make them different.



Restorative Justice gives you more information about yourself.

At a recent Circle session  – a Victim Empathy Seminar.  I kept the Circle and attending were four young male ‘offenders’, three Moms, three community members.

A Victim Empathy Seminar is a SCVRJP service where juveniles and a parent or guardian attend with community members.  The orginal intent was to have a surrogate vicitm present.  This hasn’t always worked, and most everyone attending has been the victim of something so we discuss and process that.

There is so much “value added” during Circle process.  Social skills are practiced, the safe enviornment to have difficult conversation simply runs parrellel to the really great direct goals of accountability and healing.

A specific moment in yesterday’s Circle captured this for me.  We were on the ‘building relationship’ round.  The tone was set and the Circle members were starting to feel more comfortable in what was happening.  The question of the round was “tell a story about a time, you or someone else was lost”.  A Mom had the talking piece, and she started to share about being in Las Vegas when her son (sitting next to her) was 3.  He’s almost 18 now.  The young man was leaning forward hands folded together, elbow resting mid-thigh with his head down.  When Mom said this, his head popped up, he quietly said “I was in Vegas?, Cool”.  He then sat back and gave his Mother, full eye contact and attention. 

Yes, he briefly spoke without the talking piece.  But he went immediately into a listening mode.  Mom didn’t respond or converse, she nodded and continued her story.  I saw a connection made for the young man.  He got information about himself he didn’t know.  My mind wandered to my daughters bedtime routine from ages 6-12, she would ask “tell me a story about when I was a baby”.  She would love to hear about silly things we did.  It could be when we played in a mud puddle or her falling off of a slide.  Maybe the time she set up her mini-play castles and Ants in the Pants game.  She gave each Castle a piece of cheese, is she snnaped the ant and if it went in, she “captured their cheese”.

These are family stories.  These stories are what tie us together.  We belong where are stories are.  I believe belonging is what keeps us from hurting people.  You don’t harm your own.  Stories give us common experiences and these experiences designate us from strangers.  The more you learn about your self, the more you get the chance to think about ‘self-realization’.  That is where the internal cogs of change are.  We as human beings change from the inside out.  That’s my belief.  That’s where restorative justice goes . . . to the inside, to the heart.

ANE_Book_Cover_OBC_LGI picked up A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle .  I wasn’t very far into it and I flagged something to blog about.  He mentions that you cannot “force” someone to be good, you have to direct them to the good already inside of them.  Then they can focus on that and ‘be good’. 

I related that to Restorative Justice.  When you do a bad behavior – you can get labeled as “bad person”.  By those around you and by yourself.

Later in Circle – a Mom related feeling much better and realizing she wasn’t the only Mom with a son having trouble.  Most of the Circle laughed in the manner she shared this “relief”.  She talked about knowing she wasn’t a “bad Mom”.  Our society does far too much judging on good/bad – right/wrong.

Relationships hurt us and relationships heal us.  Take what you know about yourself and view it from the perspective of healing.

Ask someone to tell you a story about yourself.  Really listen to that persons description.  Find information about yourself.

A gripping example of sharing your story.

I love this blogger . . . Penelope Trunk.

Today’s blog is about why she shares so much about herself.  It is amazing.  I think you should read it.

I was blown away.  Her blog and advice helped me start blogging.  She is refreshing and honest and I love her perspective.  I emailed her a career question last year and she answered me.  I think it’s cool she lives in Madison WI.  I respect and admire her work and her as a person.

The post today really knocked me off of my feet.  I hope you find the same things I did – resilency, honesty and courage.