I am 67 years old, a mother and a grandmother.
My work was as a Speech and Language Therapist, latterly in paediatrics. I loved this work because it connected with language, which is uniquely human, and which compelled exploration of being human on many levels.
I heard of Circles through Quakers: the opportunity to help someone towards a fulfilling and offence free life is compelling and surely reparation, at least a beginning, and a gift for the victim and society.
It is also, for me, about compassion in the true sense of the word: Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely and broken. But it is not our spontaneous response to suffering.
What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it Henri Nouwen. This means acknowledging the pain of the CM and the victim.
The victim is the reason we are there.
I have learnt that, as with any group of people, one cannot cut and paste one experience on another.
Some will respond more readily to the Circle process itself. The three Circles which I've shared have been very different, in age, background, nature of offence.
I have learnt that the process is important and cannot be rushed. It is a gradual building and laying down of trust, of writing on the blank sheet in a safe place, which is free from judgement, but will not forget the ‘accountability' which is intrinsic, and which will be easier to address from the place of trust.
Safety has been mentioned. It is central to the success of Circles. Supervision and transparency, the careful sharing of concerns and information, and support of volunteers is second to none.
I have yet to experience a tidy ending to a Circle, but have found that the frayed edges of the first one have been tidied up, and the core member is working and in a relationship.
Being in a Circle is to meet a person, not a headline or a stereotype. It can be compelling, frustrating, and hopeful. However tidily or otherwise it may finish, it helps to remember the seed never sees the flower!