When I teach about restorative justice, I emphasize the importance of community members by using the kindness of strangers. I explain that when someone we don’t know stops to help us, it has deeply positive impacts. I explain this in a blog post. A great relevant concept Consequential Strangers, more of my blogs on consequential strangers.
Let me explain how I came to realize ‘why’ the kindness of strangers is so powerful.
I was driving in a funeral procession, we were the 5th or 6th car. My 18 year-old daughter and 21 year-old niece were with me. I broke the silence by sharing my dislike for being one of the cars following a hearse. I was remembering back 22 years to my Mothers funeral and having to be in the very first car behind the hearse. Even as I type this the grief washes over me like a wave. If you’ve ever had to have the first car experience you know exactly what I mean.
The cemetary was 8 miles away, down the highway. I shared with the girls how I still stop and pull over for funeral processions. My niece who lives in a small Nebraska town, shared they still do it there. Daughter shared a story of seeing a driver have to cut across an intersection in St. Paul, and in that cut through the processional line of cars.
Then I noticed a truck, a car and a van, all pulled to the side of the road. I was so touched. I told the girls “see, you respect the dead, no matter who they are.” I shared feeling respected and honored. I shouted out to the cars “thank you, good luck, I hope you win the lottery.” I was being my normal/wierd self, but also wanting to role model sending positive energy for my young passengers. They didn’t even make fun of me.
We drove further and saw more drivers that elected to stop. A few sped past. I pointed these behaviors out to the girls. I shared how deeply respected and touched I was by those that stopped. I reinforced them to do kind things, not knowing how much a little thing can mean to someone else. I was thinking of how deeply touched I was for those that stopped. I knew they were consequential strangers, touching my life. Giving me an opportunity to teach the young women in my car how to behave in a community.
I knew I would be blogging about this. As I sat down this morning I realized its about NOT being judged. These strangers had no idea who was in the hearse, who the family was, who the mourners were. They didn’t know if we had money, beauty, fame, poverty or disease. Well we have none of the above.
In restorative justice non-judgemental listening is promoted. It’s a tool to the process, regardless of if you were harmed or harmed someone. Community members/Circle volunteers are essentially the neutral set of eyes, they bring non-judgement kindness to the process. It impacts others in the Circle that strangers care. It restores and renews a sense of community. Just like those drivers that pulled over on Wednesday morning. They gave me a gift, another lesson that kindness has powerful effects. Kindness restores and renews a sense of community, as only community members can do.