It's funny how when I think about the necessity of human interaction, that Biblical seed of faith planted in me so long ago resurfaces. "It is not good for man to be alone..." And while my faith continues to reshape itself in my adult context, I still hold this to be true, masculine words aside. We, as humans, don't function optimally when isolated. That premise is behind the usage of Peace Circles, the community-building tool I was recently trained to do in Chicago. If children are not safe at home, if children are bullied at school, if children cannot escape rejection online, how does that impact their behavior? Does that lead them to make choices for the betterment of mankind or can that eventually put them in a space of fight, flight or freeze? Any human eventually gets to self-preservation if stripped of connection long-term. That's part of how we've survived this long, right?!?!
We have children in our school system who are in this predicament. Some of them have never known anything outside of this. If you're as privileged as I am (and was going through school), take a moment and think about that. What would it look like to not feel safe? How would it feel to not have anyone in your life want to hear what you have to say? Would you even know what to say or how to use your voice if given the opportunity? Now, in that head space, how in the world can you expect to ace pre-calculus? How can you wait your turn, give someone the benefit of the doubt, do your homework, deal with teachers who don't understand you and peers who bully you, when your entire life is in chaos? I know this sounds extreme and it's certainly not the case for every American child, but we are in a state of food insecurity, rampant abuse, an overloaded foster care system, an opioid epidemic, and an administration giving permission to blatant bigotry. That leaves our children more vulnerable than we'd like to admit as adults because we're overwhelmed ourselves and we're doing the best we can.
What the hell are we supposed to do? We have a lot of problems to fix. And though social media connects us more than ever, somehow many of us feel more isolated and unwelcome because of it. Enter, PEACE CIRCLES!!!! What would it look like if our communities, including but not limited to, our classrooms, created a safe space for everyone to connect, speak their truth and find commonality without invalidating differences? I cannot tell you the level of connectedness I felt after 4 days of peace circles. We were strangers, you guys! And being apart now for 6 days, I still feel like I'm limping around without my new friends. In real life, we won't be conducting peace circles for 4 days straight but we intend to create communities that keep circle regularly. So it's less of a church camp vibe and more of a daily, connected community. That kind of consistent safety and support could change our country, our world. The tensions that we feel, the defensiveness, the fear, the isolation makes this a less safe, less happy place for all of us.
Come, keep circle with me! Find connection. And then take that connection and share it with others. Instead of criminalizing our children of color for insubordination, what would it look like it we acknowledged our bias and built bridges instead of walls (get the Trump reference? I'm a nerd). We can do this, you guys. We can take our country back, acknowledge our past and re-write our future. We don't need more of the same bigotry and pain. We need connection. And that, my friends, is what will prevent us from repeating the cycle again and again.