You know the scene in the movie. The main character is walking down the street. He hears the roar of the newspaper man ahead and the sees the crowd gathering around. He picks up the paper and sees what all the fuss is about. And then, all of a sudden, his frown turns to a smile as he realises what has happened or just, if not more likely, it's the other way around. The smile is replaced by a grimace. That's the power of a story. It's better than a hundred lectures and most speeches are rarely remembered for anything except a good yarn or two in the middle. And the thing is stories all around us. They don't have to make the front page (or back page if you're a sports nut like me) to be interesting or worth hearing. They are literally all around us, sometimes when you least expect it.
I had an interesting morning a few weekends back. I was asked by a friend in the local athletics club to steward for a race they were hosting and where traffic restrictions would be put in pace for a few hours. This meant a number of hours of standing a crossroads, informing people of the road closure and giving alternative directions to help them navigate the detour. It was an interesting experience because you get to meet 60 or 70 people in a short space of time, which is more than most people might encounter in a week or two. It was also interesting for the fact that you are meeting different people but in the identical circumstance (of a road closure) so you get to see a variety of human reactions and, more importantly, get to hear a variety of human stories, if you are ready to listen. Here's some of the people I met:
There was the woman who appeared quite upset when she pulled up. She was on her way back from the vet where she had earlier taken her 10 week old puppy. Her own husband had hit the pup that morning with his car and was so upset he took off for the day. She herself could barely speak about it herself so I let her be and she headed on. (I later heard the pup survived in case you were interested).
There was the guy I recognised from my rugby playing days, who I hadn't seen in years. He and his wife were taking their kids, aged 4 and 5, to their first cinema trip and all seemed excited (the film was Toy Story if you need to know). You never saw such excitement as I wished them well on their way.
Then there was the one woman from the morning who was angry at the detour itself. She needed to get to the local town for mass and it was fifteen minutes to kick off. I let her know she'd easily be there in ten, even with the detour, but she did not seem impressed. She questioned why there needed to be such races and detours. I had no answer for her, except to sympathise with her, but silently I wondered how it was that the most religious person (on the surface) could be the least patient. I also wondered what her story was that had her so impatient over the loss of no more than five minutes.
There was the local man, who I only knew to salute, who came out to offer a cup of tea. He and his wife were off later that morning for a few nights away without the kids, something they do once a year. Grateful for the tea and envious of their trip away (it was the Monart Spa if you need to know) I again felt privileged for this little glimpse into the lives of my fellow Limerick men and women.
There were many more people I met, albeit briefly, that morning but these were the ones that stood out and it was nice to hear some of their stories on the day.
Why do I share this? As I said earlier everyone has a story and, depending on the day, you may have a particularly different story. So the next time that kid does something out of character, ask yourself what might be bringing that on and try to find out before you react. Maybe he's left a note in his room to the effect that he's thinking of ending his life. Or that colleague who seems off form and isn't pulling their weight, you might want to ask a question or two before you decide they're just being lazy. It could be they're on the verge of burnout and need help fast. And your child who's giving cheek back to you for the fist time, well what if it turns out to be hormone related and they themselves don't understand why they're reacting that way? Yeah, you guessed it, these are not all entirely fictional stories. (Note here: none of this means it's okay to behave badly, or okay to accept bad behaviour. It's just that you will react more humanely when you know what you're dealing with and rule out any false or harsh assumptions).
As for my story, well that's another days work.
That's restorative practice.
My name is Joe Power and I am the RP development officer for Limerick. I thought I would write about my experiences in developing my own understanding of RP, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick. The reason for this is that I find that both my own and other people's experiences are remarkably similar and there could well be some opportunity for others to benefit from these thoughts (or ramblings!!). Anyway I hope you gain something from it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.