We all need stories. To tell them honestly, and to deeply listen to them, is essential to our sense of who we are, as individuals and as a community.
We'd like to share some of our stories, beginning with this one from a parent of an adolescent son.
Check back often: we'll be updating and adding more stories regularly to this page .
A letter from a mother
I was at my wits end with my adolescent son. Three weeks into the school year he was arrested for assault. This time he had caused physical harm to another teen. I asked that he be taken to juvenile hall. I explained to the arresting officer a lifetime of assorted attempts to change the destructive course my son was obviously on.
The beginning of the REAL change happened the day we got involved with Restorative Resources. For the first time my son was forced to look at how his actions impacted others in a domino-like effect. The connection was genuine as he had to look at the faces and into the eyes of numerous individuals wronged by the unscrupulous choice he had made on that day.
Through the restorative process he was forced to take responsibility for his behavior and to make a real effort to repair the harm he had caused so many people.
My son concluded this program with astounding personal growth. This is not to say he doesn’t make poor choices now and then; the difference is he takes responsibility for his choices and seeks to resolve and repair harm on his own. For the first time in his life, I believe my son is proud of the person he is becoming.
“When people don’t include others…
that happens a lot”
Lisa, a fifth-grader, was quiet in our first couple of classroom circles, taking the talking piece when it came to her, then passing it to the next student without speaking.
When the talking piece came to Lisa again, she held it silently for a moment. But instead of passing it along, she quietly, said, “When people don’t include others… that happens a lot.” We asked what she meant. She explained that sometimes on the playground she would try to join a group of girls in conversation or a game, “They turn their backs on me and pretend I don’t exist.” Other students nodded their heads; they too had the same experience. They too had felt the same pain.
We added “excluding” to the list of things the students were concerned about, and by the fourth week of Restorative Classrooms Process, Lisa’s class had learned to view all challenging behavior in terms of the impact it had on others.
As one of Lisa’s classmates put it, “It’s not just about someone being bad; it’s about all of us.”
In the seventh week we revisited the question about what issues were affecting the class. Students named many of the same things, but there was a difference. For most of the issues we brought up, someone would say, “That’s not really happening any more.” and there would be a general chorus of agreement.
When excluding others came up, Lisa immediately spoke up. “I don’t think that’s so much of an issue now,” she said. Someone else said, “Well sometimes… but not nearly as much.” Lisa smiled and nodded her agreement.
“I’m going to take that family for everything they have!”
That’s what the insurance company representative told us after Anthony (not his real name) lost control of a bottle rocket (firecracker) on school grounds that lit up a bush next to a classroom and caused $300,000 worth of damage to the building and its contents. It’s a sentiment that is perfectly within the insurance company’s representative’s rights, as a legitimate entity who was impacted by the incident.
The insurance representative came to the Restorative Conference. It was the first time she actually met Anthony and his mother, Maria, who was a single parent with a part time job.
As she listened to them talk, she came to understand their situation. She saw how sincerely remorseful they were, how much Anthony regretted the accident — and that, indeed, it was an accident. She also came to understand how deeply he wished he could fix this situation.
Maria said she would do everything she could to make it right. She offered to cash out the $4,200 she had in a retirement fund as a first payment.
The insurance agent got up from her chair, walked across the circle, sat next to the mother and said, “Don’t take out that money. Together we’ll find a way to work this out.”
And they did.
It seemed like no big deal, until it turned into a dangerous situation… one that ended in serious injury.
Two young men in a car crowded a bicyclist on a city street, yelling obscenities at him. This made the cyclist angry, so that when they all came to a stop light, the cyclist hit the side mirror of the car, inadvertently breaking it. He pulled into a parking lot to apologize and to offer to pay for the damage.
The two young men followed him and became verbally aggressive. The reactive violence of the altercation increased quickly. Mike (not his real name) was one of the two young men. He said “I didn’t think it was going to get violent, I didn’t mean to hurt him, I just didn’t want him to hurt me or my friend.” But one person, the cyclist, was seriously injured.
Then the other young man threw the bicycle across the parking lot, seriously damaging it. At this point the police were called, and the cyclist charged both young men with bodily harm and property damage.
Mike’s case was referred to us by Juvenile Probation, for participation in an Accountability Circle. During that time, Mike expressed his surprise at the violence of his own reactions in the incident and was extremely remorseful, apologizing repeatedly for having hit the cyclist.
Part of his restorative plan was to commit to community service. He agreed to do whatever was suggested, but then he took his service to the next level. He is a cyclist himself, rebuilding bicycles as a hobby. So, in addition to his recommended community service, he also built 4 bikes to be donated to those who couldn’t afford to purchase one themselves.
We’re happy to say that each of those bikes were given as gifts to grateful recipients.