The View from Home: Pandemic, Peace and Possibilities
We are in a Pandemic. Covid-19. A deadly virus where there is no cure. I, like many have been affected in ways that have truly not been revealed. I, like many of you, are frighten. I like many of you have a loved one who have been affected both economically and socially. I am trying to wrap my mind around these times we are living in.
I have been home a lot and being here in Chicago, I have been spending time with my family and neighbors. Because most of my neighbors are elders, I do not see them much. During the summer months before COVID, one of my neighbors would be in her garden planting and pulling weeds. This season, I have only seen her once putting out the trash. My other neighbor does not come out at all. Social distancing is real but Social isolation is affecting the elderly in a much more profound way. I do not take for granted that I have my wife, my twins and my three dogs. I am not worried about being alone but I am concerned about those that do not have as many social interactions as I have.
At the end of May, we all witness the killing of George Floyd and its aftermath. We experience this worldwide and it has shaken us all to our core. As we grapple with these events, spaces for connections, relating and healing are needed more than ever to discuss what we have experience, its historical context and how we forge ahead a new direction in our relationship as Americans.
Practicing Restorative Justice Practices have changed. This change has been both technical and adaptive. Technical challenge usually can be solved through clear problem solving techniques. Adaptive challenges are different because the answer is not all accomplished through traditional means. The answer will required to solve these problems will have work harder to find the solution ie. race relations.
Our restorative practices have moved from Safe Space to ZOOM Spaces. Our talking pieces have become digitized. The "rock and the rug" has moved into a digital space. Peace building has been moved to computer screens. We are living in a new space and we will never be the same. That can be challenging if you are not willing to embrace the new possibilities that has been given to all of us. The questions is what are the possibilities?
First the possibilities are limitless.
There is no end to what you can do and how you can do it. You are alive and this 24 hours you have been given is another opportunity to connect to someone. Our mental health and emotional health is as important as our physical health. Understanding this, you have a platform and a power that is limitless. Your word and deeds are more important than ever. Everything you have learned from Restorative Strategies and other groups are now to be applied.
You are going to do Restorative Practices differently. This is a time to look at ways to bring Circles to the people. I call it "Circle in". Using the many platforms that are available you can perform a Socially Distance Circle practicing all the things you have learned. But there is going to be a point where you are going to have learn new things and be open to the technical and adaptive challenges you will face. Have courage. Your work will continue and there are many who need your skills and talents.
You are not alone.
We are all experiencing this together. With that being said, do not be too proud to reach out for help. This is not a time to isolate yourself from your community of friends and family who would love to hear from you. The part of Circles I enjoy is the storytelling portion of the rounds. I have trained thousands of individuals and what has impressed me the most have been the stories of love, lost, forgiveness, courage, and hope. What I have been doing is listening to the elders in my family and compiling a living family tree using the techniques I have honed in Circle. These stories have nourished me in ways I can not describe in words. It reminds me that I am not alone and in a space of love and reunion even though we are practicing social distancing. You are not alone. You are surrounded by love and hope.
In conclusion, I do not have all the answers but I do know what is possible if you have the right mind set. These problems are both technical and adaptive that we are made to face due to COVID, racial tension and the mental emotional stress that is a threat to our overall well being. In this pandemic we are all affected. Those who are practitioners of Restorative Practices have the skills to "Circle in" where possible, use storytelling to learn from your community and live with a limitless mindset. My hope is that on the other side of this Pandemic we can find out that we have made the impossible possible. I leave you with this scripture to anchor you on this journey that has been thrust upon us all:
Micah 6:8 "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is GOOD; and what does the Lord require of me; but to do JUSTLY, and to love MERCY, and to walk HUMBLY with thy GOD?