Sunday, 11 May 2014

SAWBONNA: OUR EVERY DAY. AND WITH-NESS-ING.

Justice as a lived experience  is engaged in every day. The beauty that is Sawbonna is its reminder that it is not merely those directly involved in the formal justice system for whom the lived realities of the words: respect, responsibility, relationship, and wonder matter. Each and every setting in which we find ourselves we are in community. The values that are Sawbonna's and Restorative Justice's means that we must remember that we are invited to be the very change we wish to have students, staff, victims, inmates, and all the "others" implement. The "implementation" of respect, responsibility, and relationship means that we teach ourselves to incorporate these notions in all that we do. I have found myself saying, "They should," "They must." This speaks my  forgetfulness that if "They should" and "They must," I might ask myself what I am saying about who I am in relation to "They."  The moment I find myself speaking  for and about, "Them,"  forfeiting the gift to myself, which includes remembering that "They" and "I" are community, I stop. I stop and I plant my feet firmly in their shoes. Planting my feet in their shoes, allows me to see from another angle, allows me to feel from another opening in my heart. This is not the same as "knowing" for others. It is a helpful though sometimes difficult act of standing in community, perhaps communion. Can I stand in communion with that rapist, that murderer, that tire slasher? Perhaps not in communion, but perhaps with a knowing that we are community, like it or not. We are with each other. It is the "with-ness" that allows us to witness how another might be feeling, including their friends, family, co-workers, colleagues. This can be a useful practice when we can not have face to face and heart to heart conversations; and even when we can. Every single day "with-ness-ing" happens. When Glen and I were invited by Meredith Egan to Mountain Institution, BC, last year, Meredith said something that continues to teach me. She said something along the lines of: how we treat the woman behind the counter at Timmies and the man who rotates our tires at the gas station is as important as all the Restorative Justice and Sawbonna workings we write about and speak about.  To talk about justice when it is "easy" for us to do so, makes good sense. Equally good sense is to live: respect, responsibility, and relationship when it is difficult. We do not do this because we are holy, chosen, martyrs, or more special than. We make a practice of doing this because it is smart justice. It is wonder. It is Sawbonna. Every day: "with-ness-ing."

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