One of the most important words, and most important concepts in my life, is “restorative.” For the past couple of months I have been involved in planning and organizing a well-attended program here on Whidbey that featured a successful experience using Restorative Justice as a means of healing the trauma of an auto accident. (See the video link of the program below.) In addition to promoting Restorative Justice in the criminal justice system for the past thirty years, the concept of restorative itself has become a pervasive force in my life in general. We all live in a real world where, even under the best of circumstances and intentions, we do harm to one another, either by the things we do or don’t do. And a major part of a successful life, it seems to me, is to have the will and the skills to restore the harm, to reestablish the breaches of trust, that our wrongdoings cause.
Some time ago I kept hearing about the Jewish teaching of Tikkun olam, and I sought out my rabbi friend to explain it to me. She described a beautiful creative image of a peaceful world, like a glass ball or exquisite pottery, that got shattered because of human wrongdoing and abuse. The mission of faithful humanity, then, is to restore the world back to its original harmonious state for which it was created, a world that was innately good, and all human activities are opportunities to fulfill this mission of restoration. I love this image.
And one of the monthly communications I get from the Intercommunity Peace and Justice Center in Seattle recently devoted an entire issue to the importance of the restorative power of rest amidst a world of so much busyness and stress. To make up for sleep deprivation and fatigue, we need to practice simply resting in quiet, enjoying the beauty of the day or the play of children, without thinking about our lists and responsibilities. We have essentially lost the practice of sabbath, a weekly discipline to bring our attention to our relationship with God and away from the purposefulness of daily responsibilities.
One of the reasons I so enjoyed my annual week at Weston Priory in Vermont a number years ago was that amidst all the hospitality, chores, meal preparations and property maintenance, the brothers also observed hours of hushed silence as part of worship as well at times of eating and work. A brother once told me he thought he could not exist without these periods of silence. Those weeks at a monastery were restorative for me in large part because of the cycle of quiet that balanced the day. Working and raising children makes it difficult to find space and time for restorative quiet, for sure, but a daily walk with a pause is in itself restorative. And I now gratefully enjoy my retirement which does provide more time for solitary restorative time.
In the face of so much despairing news these days I hold to my belief that our broken world can be restored, if only one shard at a time. I am so moved by how many people I see doing restorative work in their personal lives, their families, their communities and the world. My work advocating for restorative justice is deeply satisfying for me, and our program last week only confirmed the gift of healing and hope it can provide. I look forward to working on implementing Restorative Justice into our court and educational systems here on Whidbey, and I look forward to advocating for it elsewhere.
In these sweet, fulsome summer days may you find sources of restoration for your mind, body, and soul. So be it.
The following video https://vimeo.com/735646246/c6e7c54bd1 presents a heart-warming story about the healing facilitated by the process of Restorative Justice following a tragic auto accident that resulted in the death of Yvonne Palka in 2019. The program was recorded on July 28, 2022, and it includes an introductory prerecorded video, commentary from Johnny Palka and his daughters, Tanya and Rachel, as well as comments from the driver of the vehicle and the facilitators of the Restorative Justice process. Please consider passing the video on to others who knew Johnny and Yvonne or to those who would be interested in learning more about the concept and practices of Restorative Justice.
For more information on Restorative Justice, or ways you can become involved in promoting Restorative Justice, contact Tom Ewell, firstname.lastname@example.org.