Connecting local responses around the world
A 12 year old boy who had recently been discharged from a children’s home continued to receive support from the institution. He was invited to attend activities during the weekends. Unfortunately on one weekend, he was told by some children there that his 11 year old girlfriend who was still residing in the Home was bad mouthing his family. The boy was livid but he could not find an opportunity to confront or clarify the matter with his girlfriend. The information ate into him and the moment he reached home, he ran down to the internet café and posted a string of derogatory remarks and a threat to harm his girlfriend on his Facebook wall. A few days later his girlfriend mentioned this to her guardians at the Children’s Home and a police report was filed.
When we contacted the police, they were supportive of our intention to resolve the issue through an Understanding Circle. What they really wanted was to see the 12 year old boy and his girlfriend learning to behave appropriately. So in cooperation with the Children’s Home, we arranged for a meeting we call an Understanding Circle. The purpose being for all parties concerned to gain an understanding of the incident that had affected them. The hope is that with understanding comes a peaceful resolution.
The Understanding Circle was attended by the boy, his mother and her boyfriend, 3 siblings who were yet to be discharged from the Home, his girlfriend who was supported by her social worker and another staff member of the Home. Only one person was allowed to speak at a time and the person speaking had to be holding the talking piece. The family chose a soft toy as the talking piece and the conversation proceeded as agreed. It was the first experience for the family in a Circle but they understood the ground rules immediately. They participated respectfully and treated the talking piece with much care. After a round, we learnt that although the circumstances that brought about the Circle were not pleasant, mother deeply valued the opportunity to be sitting and talking in the same room with all her children. She regarded the opportunity to be a special gift as the talking piece was a soft toy of an animal considered sacred in her culture.
After the girlfriend spoke, the Circle agreed that it was a misunderstanding and she did not bad mouth the family. She also said that when she saw the Facebook posting she was a little scared but she did not feel threatened as she believed her boyfriend would not have hurt her. Though only 11, she put the incident in perspective. The boy’s 10 year old brother was quiet but when he spoke, he told his elder brother the Facebook posting was a mistake. To close the Circle, everyone said something positive about the 12 year old boy. Most expressed a hope that he would not get into more trouble. After the Circle dispersed, the 12 year old boy told us that when his younger brother asked “Who taught you to do such a stupid thing?” it hit him hard. At that point, he realized that he had been a poor role model for someone who had always looked up to him. He told himself then that he needed to do better.
This Sunday, families welcoming the Year of the Dragon will do so with a reunion dinner. May you always experience family reunions as a special gift.
Gong Xi Fa Cai, Xin Nian Kuai Le
“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.”
Carol Lynn Pearson