Do you ever find it's in the small moments that can have some of the biggest impressions? The following were two interactions with someone, 45 minutes apart, that lasted maybe 90 seconds in total. One of my yearly (and by now ritual) contributions to the local community is to volunteer as a steward for a half marathon road race. It's not the most glamorous job in the world. It's three hours of a Sunday morning in late September and, essentially, I just stand at a crossroads and stop and re-route traffic. My station is actually 2 miles away from the race, so I don't even have the benefit of seeing the actual race. What I do is offer alternative directions to people around the local town. The brightside is you meet a lot of people, some local, some passing through. Furthermore, it's like a little experiment in that you see a range of human emotions and behaviours. Most people are very understanding and accommodating, especially when given a clear (hopefully) set of directions, that probably adds 10 minutes at most to their drive. And then there's the odd exception. One gentleman last year took high offence, even questioning the legality of road closures and, while not exactly verbally abusing me directly per se, was uttering more than a couple of expletives in my presence. Suffice to say, he was not a happy camper. All I could do at the time was empathise and say sorry for the disruption. At an earlier stage in life I might have been drawn into retorts, might have held it against it, might have harbored animosity in the aftermath. Fortunately, with the benefit of life experience, training and this thing called restorative practice (I must really tell you about that sometime ), I held my calm, and genuinely empathised with him as best I could. In that moment I'd like to think I was compassionate. It doesn't always happen. I've been known to be less than compassionate before and since, but right there I was. What was really interesting to me was, about 45 minutes later, who should return my way and stop and roll down his window? Yes, my stressed out buddy from earlier. It turns out he had been on his way to an NCT test, was already running late and did not exactly know the backroads of Effin (which is very understandable as even Effin people sometimes get lost on the many backroads around here). He had obviously reflected on the earlier encounter however and was now highly embarrassed, apologetic and acknowledged his earlier behaviour was out of order. I told him not to worry about it and wished him well. I was, however, so grateful for him returning to me to do that. It reinforced my earlier approach, as well as my belief that a more compassionate approach is what's needed across all sectors of society. The thing here of course is we don't always get to see the fruits of our efforts rewarded. In that moment I was lucky that I did get to hear and see and experience it. Of course the challenge is to keep doing that, when we know it's the right way to be, and we also know we won't see the rewards.
So how about it? Can we stand to be more compassionate? It doesn't mean we condone bad behaviour. I didn't condone the man's behaviour above when he was out of control. If anything, I just leant him some calm, and he paid it back when he could. Who can you show more compassion to today? (You can even let me know if you like)
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/RJ, as well as in trying to spread it across Limerick (and beyond). 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.