From offender to storyteller, part 1.

For the last 9 years I have had the wonderful blessing and opportunities of Restorative Justice work.  From victim-offender dialogue from the simple to the most serious, to 1,000’s of Restorative Justice Circles.  Training others, blogging and teaching a college course has served me well in having to stay connected to science, theory and evidence-based information.  The most crucial and influential skills I have developed combine research and the personal experience of helping offenders and survivors become effective storytellers in Restorative Justice settings.

SCVRJP utilizes storytellers as part of the majority of Circles, and at our Victim Impact Panels.  Over the years I have developed a simple format for our storytellers.  I ask them to memorize, using a mental visual of a baseball diamond, Intro, Incident, Impact, Reflection.  You can even tap thumb to fingertip, saying I, I, I, R to help.  Speakers/storytellers have LIVED through the experience, so they know the ‘story’.  Many bring in the perceived expectations of others and try to be professional speakers.  What works well, is to be themselves and speak from the heart.  Some speakers spend just a few visits with me, as we prepare the context of the story (Restorative).  We also expose the speakers to our process (having them attend a Victim Impact Panel or Circle).

We recently held a Circle for a new speaker.  The speaker had driven impaired, survived the crash, and someone died as a result of the injuries from the crash.  We use CRASH over ACCIDENT, choices were made.  Like everyone I’ve met in this situation the person didn’t intend that kind of harm to result.  Intended or not, people’s lives were tragically impacted by the death.  The criminal justice system responds to these kinds of harms, restorative justice responds with support and expectations of accountability, acknowledged the responsibility of causing the harm.

Different people have different ways of handling incidents when they didn’t intend on the harm.  Some quickly go to a deep remorse and responsibility.  Others have a ‘dance’ and need support in working through the need to rationalize, justify, minimize and blame.  When you believe deep down you are a good decent person, how do you hold that you are now a murder?  Your actions ended a life.  This creates a deep moral and psychological dilemma.  For increased public safety and the future functioning of the individual – we MUST move people to the good decent person.

Something a decent person who killed someone in a traffic crash (impaired or not) can do . . . tell the story in hopes that others will avoid a similar incident.  SOOOO important is to work through and eliminate the rationalizations, justifications, minimization and blaming aspects.  You have to work with storytellers to find the deep core, value and center of who they are.  You have got to provide the support to let them know that they are still a worthwhile person, despite the incident.  Storytelling is a step to making amends and changing for the better.

Link here for the tips in using, and here for additional blog posts on storytelling.  Neuroscience research has validated that stories a brain-based tools for change.  Stories sync our brains, allow new ideas to be planted (article). From Forbes :

When it comes to inspiring people to embrace some strange new change in behavior, storytelling isn’t just better than the other tools. It’s the only thing that works.

Doing justice for Restorative Justice is not what to think, but how.

This article in Harvard Business Review, the author shares some success in sharing HOW to think, not WHAT to think.  Boom, in my brain, that is why I blog, to help people with Restorative Justice and Circles, and to provide insight in how we might advance ourselves, our services and our collective passion about Restorative Justice and Circles.  How to think about it,  here is an example:

The hot new social media trend is pinterest.  Pinterest is an online pinboard.   Whoever heard of that?  Basically, a pinboard is a place to post pictures that are links to sites, and you can look at what has been pinned, someone elses board of pinned items.  Make sure you have time when you go there, it is addicting.

My first visit to pinterest, I, of course, search the term Restorative Justice.  Results, about restorative yoga, restorative dentistry and lots of photos with comments on how the photo “doesn’t do it justice”.  After reading again and again, “doesn’t do it justice” or “does not do justice”, I put my meaning on the word justice, and began to think about criminal justice, restorative justice and why and how the word was being used in all these photo comments.

I came to this.  In the context of beauty, when a photo “does not do it justice”, it means something about it wasn’t captured, that in real life, there was something much more.  I think it has to do with capturing a spiritual essence, that a photo can not do and real life can.  I think, Restorative Jusitce brings different “justice”.  The kind of justice that includes a spiritual essence, that formal process can not do.  Recently hearing “there are as many definitions of justice as their are victims”.  I am in tune to the individuality of justice and the need to be individually aware of each persons experience and need for justice.

Crime is ugly, there is no way to say that it isn’t.  People are hurt, people are punished, resources and capacity are diminished in the presence of crime.  Humans are not acting on their own greater good when they commit crimes.  Generally here, it was a crime when Rosa Parks didn’t get out of her seat, but that’s another blog post.

Use of the phrase, “doesn’t do it justice” on pinterest, really had me thinking about harvesting the justice (beauty and spiritual essence) in Restorative Justice.  It was actually best said by a teen in Circle.  She looked at the speaker, who had shared the pain of surviving his daughters death, caused by an intoxicated driver, and she told him she was sorry for his loss.  She said it was terrible that it happened and she wished it hadn’t.  She said it was cool that he was telling the story like this.  I saw the expression on the storytellers face.  It appeared he was acknowledged and comforted.  I felt the beauty in that moment of connection between Circle members.  I saw an element of Restorative Justice, as the tragic and fatal car crash created a lesson and touched lives.  This storyteller was harvesting the justice (the beauty and spiritual essence) of what happened.  So much so, that a teen referred to as cool.  You do realize most teens don’t recognize people that are old enough to be their parents as cool?  And that word “cool”, in that moment, it really did do justice.


St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program – planned sessions for 2012

St. Croix Valley Restorative Justice Program in River Falls, WI provides a range of Restorative Justice Services for our community.  Click here for look at 2012: SCVRJP 2012 color calendar.

Locally, SCVRJP addresses public health concerns like teen driving, underage consumption, controlled substance use – by offering Circle sessions.  SCVRJP also offers Victim Impact Panels, for those earning driving privlidges after a conviction for drinking and driving.  Trained volunteers offer stories during sessions, community volunteers offer Restorative Justice, by participating in non-judgemental, supportive services where the impact of choices is shared by experience.  The session descriptions: 2011 sessions.

SCVRJP also provides Restorative Response – which is a program that offers support to those impacted by suicide and sudden, traumatic loss.  SCVRJP, is the lead agency working to provide informal support services for survivors and distributes the Grieving Families Guide.

Trainings are available at our River Falls location or on a contracted basis.  Training can be provided on Restorative Justice, Restorative Justice Circles, School-based Restorative Justice, Classroom Circles or topics needed by your agency.  Contact Kris Miner at SCVRJP, email: or 715-425-1100.

SCVRJP relies on donations, service fees and grants.  Your support is appreciated.  There is one annual fundraiser, the WALK for AWARENESS, scheduled for July 28, 2012.

New volunteers are welcome!  Please contact us if you are interested in joining our team!

Storytelling for Victim Impact Panels or Restorative Justice.

12 Restorative  Storytelling Tips

  1. Speak from the heart.  Share your experience and perspectives, be completely honest, don’t edit or modify what you have to say based on assumptions about the audience.  This is your experience to share.  You can be real without being offensive, when you speak from your heart.
  2. Follow the 4 stages.  You may be tempted to start at the beginning chronologically, to be logical.  A “change of behavior by a change of heart” is a restorative justice slogan.  Emotions do not require rational, logical presentation, to be felt or experienced.
  3. Stage 1, Intro.  Tell us about who you are, where you live, what your work or hobbies include.  This gives you a moment to get in your storytelling zone and to get a feel for your presentation and audience.
  4. Stage 2, Incident.  This is what happened from your perspective and experience.  People who experience trauma were going about their lives and suddenly an incident changed the course forever.  Simply explain the incident.
  5. Stage 3, Impact.  Share what you have and are feeling, hearing, thinking and, doing on physical, mental, emotional and spiritual levels.  How have you been changed, how have those around you changed?
  6. Stage 4, Reflection.  This is the part of your story to reflect back on how and why you are story telling.  This is where you can share what you hope for the audience.  You can relate what telling the story does for you, why you tell this story.
  7. Use details.  Small details have a HUGE impact.  When you give people the color of a car, season of the year, a sound, a holiday, they get a mental picture.  These details help in describing the story.
  8. Restorative Perspective.  Please review the mission, vision and values of SCVRJP.  We respect all individuals that engage with the program.  The quickest way to shut down a listener is to judge them.  Present your perspective, your experience and avoid statements of opinion or judgment.

9.  Emotions are ok.  Tears are healing, restorative storytelling is healing.  If you become overwhelmed or emotional that is ok.  You do not need to say you are sorry; it may help to acknowledge what you are feeling in that moment.  Take a few deep breaths, gently bite your tongue if needed and continue. 

10. Tell your story.  Try to avoid reading from a script.  The four stages can be remembered by assigning them to bases on a ball field.  You do not have to be perfect or say the same thing every time.

11.  Eye Contact.  Find people in the room that are listening.  Take the opportunity to look at those you are speaking with.  Eye contact builds trust.  Defenses may rise and people may even project negative body language when in fact they are being deeply impacted.

12. Generosity is appreciated.  We know you are giving.  By telling this story in hopes of helping others you are a giver.  People appreciate those willing to give of themselves.  SCVRJP staff will support you at all steps, and are available to discuss any concerns, questions, ideas that you may have.

 How the 12 tips improve restorative storytelling

Restorative storytelling is designed to help both the speaker and the listener.  The goal is to bring healing to those impacted and those that have caused harm.  The stories are used to motivate others regarding future choices.  Often times we know our listeners have made a similar choice already.  Our goal is to leave people with immediate, short and long term benefits, highlighted below.


Tip Benefit to speaker Benefit to listener
  1. 1.   From the heart
You get to integrate your experience genuinely by speaking directly about it.

Often times we screen what we say to friends and family, considering their thoughts, perspectives and feelings.  This is a chance for you to speak about your experience.

Listeners appreciate a genuine and real person.  When you see someone being themselves, they become someone you can relate to. Honesty, even when the topic is difficult, is still respected. Speaking from the heart is a positive thing to witness.
  1. 2.   Four Stages
This gives you an outline to follow; if you get emotional speaking you can easily remember which stage. The story flows in a manner that builds connections, identifies the risk and inspires different choices.
  1. 3.   Intro
A trauma leaves you feeling like you are a different person that you don’t even know.  This will help remind you that you are still you.  These things about you don’t change. Listeners can connect to general things about the speaker.  Common things like hobbies, employment, siblings, are things listeners can connect to. Once connected you are more impacted.
  1. 4.   Incident
Trauma can leave PTSD; talking about it helps.  By describing the events that impacted you, you can begin to make sense of it in a different way, a way that helps you heal. Hearing about an incident brings the reality of risk.  Firsthand accounts help people realize just how real the risk is. Incidents can be dismissed as “happens to others” until heard firsthand.
  1. 5.   Impact
Everyone experiences trauma differently.  By sharing your impact, you can relate the pieces hardest for you.  You are actually working with the oldest part of your brain and releasing the experience and by being in the safety of telling the story you are improving your coping. Impact gives people a deeper perspective in how they could have and how people experience trauma.  The impact is a place where listeners realize how they would have felt and this motivates them to avoid these difficult experiences.
  1. 6.   Reflection
This allows you to describe the meaning you are going to make of this trauma.  This allows you to offer to others what you might have done differently.  This is a place where you have control over what happened.  This is a place to share your motivations for sharing, something others may not always understand. This brings the story to reality for listeners.  They understand how deeply changed people are.  This is a stage where hope is clear.  The non-judgmental sharing impacts people; they are given an opportunity to decide for themselves future actions.
  1. 7.   Details
Our brains remember snapshots as we experience trauma, small details remain in our memory.  By speaking about them we reduce the impact of flashbacks or being negatively impacted.  Sharing these details gives further reality and integration to our experiences. Details benefit the listener, by giving set points for the story.  The next time they see a red truck or drive past the funeral home mentioned, they can think of the story and the emotion felt when it was shared.  Local details stay with people longer.
  1. 8.   Restorative
Restorative approaches promote healing.  By speaking without judgment you are supported in directions of hope and coping rather than staying in stages of anger and resentment. Restorative Justice approaches deal with the social and emotional aspects of crime. Storytelling is the means to deliver the message. Participants expect to be put down, and when they are provided an experience and the opportunity to decide, people are more responsive.
  1. 9.   Emotions
Trauma hurts our emotional state, things that are emotional need expressing. Tears are healing by getting emotional you are facilitating healing and bearing witness to your experience. Humans are equipped with mirror neurons, when we see someone cry, it triggers a response for us. When we are touched to tears, we will remember the circumstances.
10. Telling When you tell your story, you are demonstrating your ability to talk about it. You are establishing an ability to cope by relating the experience. When you tell it you are able to speak to the parts that impact you at that telling. Defenses protect us; it is easier to dismiss someone reading than it is someone telling. By seeing a person get up and talk, listeners realize the task of public speaking is not easy.  Listeners are generally impressed to see someone share experiences.
11. Eye Contact It may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. Over time you will begin to build confidence. Talk to the person you are looking at; consider one person at a time. You can look at staff or volunteers for support. People find speakers with good eye contact to be credible. Knowing the speaker is looking at you helps listeners stay engaged. Eye contact builds an understanding that the speaker is committed to helping.
12. Generosity Volunteers often find that helping others helps themselves. Volunteering eases depression and general health and well-being. Giving your story is giving a piece of your life for the greater good of others. It helps people talk about the experience in a constructive environment. Listeners have often done the same risky behavior that the story is about. Storytellers have often been harmed by the same hurt. Sharing demonstrates a caring for those that deserve it least. This type of giving often leaves listeners feeling obligated to do the right thing.

Personal, professional, private, public why it should all be one.

I have always supported the notion that as people we should be congruent between work and home.  We should hold values that reflect how we are with family and with coworkers.  We should consistently treat people well regardless of the relationship being blood or paycheck.  I need to remember that it extends to all my relationships within SCVRJP!  Clients, volunteers, co-workers and board members, I need to live my relationship values and the ones I have selected for myself and kindness, generosity and spirit.

Some blog posts emerge from my frustrations in life.  This blog is sometimes a problem solving place.  When I struggle with issues, its internal and dark.  Putting something out there in my blog, makes it very much in the light.  No matter how long you sit in the dark, when you turn on the light, the dark is gone.

Lucky for me, this blog is about Restorative Justice, and I when I lean on it for problem-solving it brings forward the philosophies and practices of Restorative Justice.

I am not perfect.  One of my character situations is taking things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.  I use situations to describe it because I will not label it positive or negative, because it is actually both, depending on how I use it.  My character situation is that I take things personally when it comes to SCVRJP.

I would like people to know the relationship I have to SCVRJP, and specifically some of the programs.  I took Restorative Justice Circle process and married it to public health issues like underage consumption, and teen driving.  I inherited Victim Impact Panels, but developed a story telling method.  I searched the internet for resources, evidence-based practices and spent considerable time, energy and used my judgement and logic.  These programs ARE a reflection of me, I created them.  I have sat with I am sure over a 1,000 people in the various Circles and processed with clients, volunteers, community members and others involved.  Spending my time, energy, talents to improve these programs.  Along the way my personality has been shaped by Restorative Justice philosophy and Circle approach, making it personal because of how it changed me for the good.  Believe me it makes you a better person, but it doesn’t make your situations go away.

I get an enewsletter to help me with my public speaking, specifically humor.  John Kinde, humor specialist recent recieved a negative “zinger” and in this post, he reflects on that.  His suggestions hit home, and when he reflected that he was being personally attached because jokes are a reflection of “logic and judgement”, “time and effort in design”, I got that. 

I’ve expressed feeling personally attacked and I’ve heard “don’t take it personally”.

I think that’s a little like telling a crime victim, “stop crying”.  You would never do that.  Victims feel victimized and they didn’t deserve it and it hurts.  Many victims have told me that before restorative justice they just didn’t feel understood.   Because of the manner we do our work, (restoratively) we deeply listen to people and give them the room to express themselves.  Regardless of the degree of severity of the crime (recognized by the legal label of the crime or our personal assessment) we don’t just state to people to “stop that”, when they are feeling mis-understood or not understood at all.

Thank you to John Kinde, because you went on to show you live your last name!  Kind with an E!  Your post shared that when we are in control of our attitude positive and negative.  Your post showed me that I can be kind to the people that tell me “don’t take it personal” and just be positive about it.  Just remind myself they only say that because they don’t understand.  Then I can smile, move on and enjoy my day.  I just leaned back in my chair, sipped my coffee, imagined the next person to say “don’t take it personally” and I smiled and whispered “ok”.  I feel great!

So if you’ve read this post recognize that we should take things personal, we should invest ourselves completely with our mind, body and soul.  We should also as John reminded us, personally focus on a positive attitude as well.

Gripping story of teen drinking and driving . . . another lesson.

The Door County Wisconsin Sheriff’s Department and local coalition produced this video, the story of Karen and Amanda.  It’s real and it hits me because I work with situations like this at SCVRJP.  I help speakers like the ones in this video, share their story.

As you watch this, you will be drawn in, get a tissue.  Also consider the powerful impact if you heard this in person.  In Circle with the very people.  At the end you would get a talking piece, and be offered the chance to make a committment to your peers and the storyteller.

Thank you Door County for producing this, it motivates me to work on finishing the On the Road Together Safe Teen Driving Circles book.


Part 2


A new term, a passion and taking life on, full force.

Today in Bikram Yoga, the teacher introduced me to a new term.  “Yoga Buzz”.  We do a pose that gets your heart pounding like you ran up a set of stairs.  In reality it’s a backward bend in 104 degree heat.  I love it.  It’s not for everyone.  In one class I remember thinking “am I going to pass out”.  This morning when she said “Yoga Buzz”, I had to quite my mind and relax, but not before I could relate it to restorative justice, and start to wonder about a “restorative justice buzz”.

I know exactly what that is, a “restorative buzz”.  Let me tell you about a few this week.

Monday at the SCVRJP board meeting.  We use “interactive meeting” format.   This includes an opening question and a closing ranking of the meeting.  The opening question kind of reminds me of my days back in 4-H.  There was always a “roll-call” question.  Well, that is what the interactive meeting format question is like.  This month the question was “what aspect of restorative justice do you think is most valuable to the community”.  There were two things that gave me the restorative buzz.  The first was the going around the room, one voice at a time.  This obviously was very much like a circle.  A circle is where I feel safest and most confident with my fellow human beings.

The second part of the buzz, was from hearing the terms and words my board members used.  I lost track of if he was talking about the offender or the victim, it applied to both.  Board member was saying that the punishment of pain and hurt does not have to be taken on forever.  RJ gives a place to process the hurts.

Someone else described how Restorative Justice both closes and opens things for people.  It brings closure, to an issue, yet opens up future possiblities.  I thought I was going to shed a tear!  Seriously.  Other comment that were very important included how we make victims a full and equal partner in repairing harm.  The reflection on what happened is part of the process, and teens need help both in how to, and what to reflect on.

I’ll never forget an apology letter: “I’m sorry you left your keys in the car”.  We went back to the drawing board on that one.

Let me share my other “buzz”.  I particularly enjoy weaving the lives of victims and offenders together.  At our victim impact panels, we strive to have speakers that have been vicitm or offender.  Sometimes the speaker is a survivor or community member.  I usually greet the speakers, we sit in the front row together.  The speakers don’t have far to walk to speak.

Now I need to confess, I haven’t been to a victim impact panel for a few months (thanks to dedicated volunteers).  At our most recent panel, my speakers all stayed in the back of the room together.  I sat all alone up front.  What gave me the buzz, was my team back there.  After each one would speak and return to the area they were sitting in.  They hugged, every time.  Speaker one finished and got a hug.  Speaker two finished and returned to get another hug.  It was just between them, the hug exchanges.  It looked like the speaker that just finished was the reciever.  The speaker that just gave a hug, came up to speak and when she returned to the back, she got a hug.

I’m always amazed at the speakers ability to see beyond what someone else did in the past, and honor what they are doing in the present.  One of our speakers was a police officer, the drunk driver that T-Boned his squad car into a light pole died.  The Officer was forced to retire and faced numerous medical and health issues in the years that followed.  He started coming to the panels to help me get people registered.  He told me he had issue with a room full of offenders.  I encouraged him to treat everyone kindly.  He finally told me his story.

I got him to speak about it at victim impact panels.  He ended up being a support person for a young woman that killed someone drinking and driving.  She was an excellent speaker and a VERY accountable offender.  When she would leave the room, crying, after telling her story, it was the retired Officer that went to console her.  He once told me, he told her “if I can forgive you, anyone can”.  Later the retired officer told me how speaking helped him.

He said, “for nearly 20 years I would wake up and the first thing I would do was to get mad.  To hate the bastard the drunk driver that  hit me.  I don’t do that anymore”.

I think maybe I’ll just live life buzzed by miracles like that.

10 tips for MADD speakers, VIP speakers or victim/survivor storytellers.

I’ve had the good fortune to know someone’s story and speaking abilities before nudging the person to be a speaker/storyteller.  So today via email, I sent off a 10 tips list.  As I started it I realized more details for my book.  I am writing a book on implementing Safe Teen Driving Circles.  You can see what they look like, by linking here:

I recently checked our outcomes, well the SCVRJP outcomes regarding our victim impact panels.  Spending time with the speakers has really paid off.  Look were we are at:

Convinced me not to drink and drive – 97 % (strongly agree/agree)
Made me consider stopping or decreasing my drinks before driving – 98 % (strongly agree/agree)
Made me realize drinking & driving consequences- 98 % (strongly agree/agree)
Convinced me to arrange for alternative transportation- 98 % (strongly agree/agree)
My behavior will be different now- 96 % (strongly agree/agree)

My off the cuff-top 10 for speakers:

1. Big power in little details.  Using the color of the car, the time of the year, the little memories you have, those details, really connect a person to the story.  Since using local community members is part of ‘realization’ for teens, using local landmarks help people.  I’ve known a speaker for years, she recently used the name and street of the funeral home.  My mind immediately flashed to that intersection, I know I will think of this next time, and probably everytime I drive by.
2. share in the moment.  if you feel nervous, just tell everyone.  if your voice shakes, tell them it will for a minute.
3. don’t put yourself down.  don’t minimize yourself or your story – a good speaker is one who knows their material – you know your story.  resist the urge to say something bad about yourself as a speaker, when speaking
4. what is said from the heart, can be heard with the heart.  Someone will always prepare the audience for you – the basic RJ and listening open will be suggested to audiences in RJ.  If your heart takes your story down a path – that’s okay.
5. use the ball diamond method.  Memory and visualization work as well or better than notes.  Imagine a ball diamond you are familiar with.  Spend a moment seeing the grass the brown in field, the four bases.  Know what is at each base for you (1-intro 2-incident 3-impact and 4- reflection)  so you tell your story from base to base. 
6. breathe – speakers often feel if I am not making noise, I am not effective – not true.  Powerful moments of silence drive the message home.  They allow for the absorbtion moment.  Take a deep slow breath, while the audience absorbs.
7. remember inside/outside can look different – look from person to person when you speak.  avoid looking at the person who fell asleep.  just know defense mechanisms rush to the outside when the inside is being churned.  A person may slump, give off body language of “I don’t care” when in reality they are being very touched by the story. 
8. be real, emotions are ok – you may get emotional that’s okay.  Explain – “this gets to me”.  Take a deep breath.  Change of behavior by a change of heart – our heart change makes us emotional.
9.  lead on the leader.  I’m here, willing to help, support, guide, protect – you name it.  Share your experiences with me so I can do my part – create a program that changes others.
10. Touch the paradox.   Someone told me “You are doing God’s work”, I said I am not, it is the storytellers, the speaker.  Know that this is life changing work, it’s huge.  The paradox is to do it as a speck of sand on the giant beach.  Humility.  Also know that you are saving lives.

The long lasting impact of a ‘positive countenance’.

SCVRJP runs Victim Impact Panels, comparable to a MADD Victim Impact Panel.  At SCVRJP we introduce Restorative Justice, the healing power of listening and telling stories.  Our speakers are typically a victim and an offender.  We also have survivors, like a parent whose child died and community members, like a first responder.  We ask our audience to ‘center’ and be present for the listeners.  I have never actually attended a MADD Panel, so I can’t speak to what they do.  Like MADD panels, our audience is court ordered to attend.  If you want your drivers license reinstated, you have to attend.

I get a variety of responses from callers wanting to attend or register, verify the event.  I always mention the ‘breathalizer’.  There might be one person at every other panel, that I need to ask to come back a different time.  There is an awesome story, about this I’ll post here

Yesterday I took a call from a young man with an upbeat attitude.  When I mentioned the breathalizer he said “not a problem, we’re past that stage“.  I loved his positive attitude.  I loved he said “we’re” he included me.  Maybe he meant himself and his inner self.  I know that sounds corny, but why did he use a plural form???  This caller also reminded me that as human’s we are in a contantly changing state.  We get a new stage every day!  Some of us need a few stages per day.  It made my day and got me realizing how the littlest of things makes the biggest difference.  When I googled “cheerful countenance” today I thought a Ben Franklin quote would show up.  Instead I found Proverbs.

A glad heart maketh a cheerful countenance; But by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.   Proverbs 15:13

When we approach life with a positive countenance we can really impact others.  Look at the impact that caller on me.  Another example of a postive countenance is how my volunteers responded to an issue at a Victim Impact Panel.  Participants are anxious about attending and the sign in sheet would be scribbled signatures I could not read.  This made it very difficult to verify if John Justice attended when I can’t read his name.

One of my volunteers with a Cheerful Countenance took it upon herself to print every single name!  That result was a big stone in the pond and the ripples were very postive.  Now each name is easy to read and every time I look at the sign in sheet it makes me happy.

Countenance is a long word and it has a powerful impact.

Bringing alive the storyteller . . .

On Friday afternoon two community members attended a Circle when Tom was to tell his story.  The two community members are both students.  One of them is a student in my advanced restorative justice class and the other is a college student who is doing is required service learning hours with SCVRJP.

Tom and I met a few years ago.  Nearly three years after an car crash, he was charged with homicide by negligent use of a motor vehichle.   The judge gave Tom 10 speaking engagements as part of his sentence.  Tom also did time in jail and has to comply with all conditions of being a felon and 3 years of probation.  So I met Tom as he began his speaking journey, he was 28 and I was struck by the heavy burden he carried for killing a friend.  Tom did find a sense of relief that his friends family wasn’t vindictive towards him. 

So my work and relationship began with Tom.  First he lost my number, then his girlfriend threw out his notes.  Next he was sick and couldn’t make it.  We had him share in a Underage Circle, and I needed to process with him about body language.  He sat back, kind of slouched in his chair.  He didn’t seem like taking a life was that big of a deal.  A scheduled speaking event and Tom called in sick.  I let him go.  I’ve just seen some people that just cannot connect to the harm they caused.  To connect to it would be more than they could bear.  That’s my perspective anyway.

About 8 months later Tom decided to try and email and see if we had any chances for him to speak.  My coworker gave him a brief and polite ‘not really’.  Three months pass by again.  Tom calls and gets me.  He’s direct, says he’s sure I’ll tell him to get lost.  I told him I was disappointed, and he’s right he would have to earn trust back.  Tom says he goes to jail if he doesn’t get his speeches done.  I tell him I need him to commit to the process.  He shares he is not a public speaker.  I assure him, that none of our other speakers were Professionals who happened to have a bad thing happen to them.  “The best person to tell your story is you, public speaking skills or not”.  He agrees.  I can tell that after months of working with other speakers I’ve got more responses to Tom’s resistance.  I am able to work with his factual nature and counter every doubt he has in himself.  I ask him to trust me.  He says ‘yes’.

I had to be really funny and tell my coworker we would be seeing him again.

I test him by having him attend a Volunteer Orientation Circle.  I have him meet with me to go over the story again.  This time I have even more empathy since he releaved his public speaking fears.  I notice his hands are shaking really badly and it’s just me he his telling his story.  I give him some suggestions.  We work out how, Tom can describe feelings.  We take a little more out about other friends, we put in a little more about the Victim.  Tom can’t bear to give an example about a time, he fears he won’t get through that memory out loud.  I give Tom permission to add that in later, the stories grow over time and with telling.

I’ve got the ‘storyteller’ awakened in Tom.