I have long wondered what is so powerful about sitting in a circle and talking about my unique story while you talk about your unique story. This is not just some conversation; in this process of storytelling we can reach much greater depth than any other communication.
By day, I find myself as an elementary school counselor for the public schools. This past week, I sat in circle with a 5th grade class, 9-10 year olds, known to be behaviorally challenging. Many young men practicing defiance while other students get lost in the mix and seem to feel somewhat traumatized by their chaotic surroundings. I explained the practice of counsel, 7 important tenets for sitting in circle together. 1.) Speak from the Heart2.) Listen from the Heart3.) Being lean of speech4.) Confidentiality5.) Spontaneity 6.) Leaning into the skid when things get tough7.) The importance of the talking piece. (I explain these this silly analogies and goofy hand gestures for the kids to remember). And then we began. I ask them about their experience of cruelty and kindness, raising their hands they let me know if they every experienced these things. And then we shared our stories of cruelty first. I spoke about when I was a bully to someone, how it made me feel and what I got out of it. And around the talking piece went. I listened in the circle, the stories truly sad in nature, I heard boys resorting to violence when being picked on by others, I heard girls experience hostile family dynamics, I heard all the children express hurt by others in the classroom. The piece returned to me. I began to express my sadness about how they are with each other and my reaction to the theme of their stories. Silence fell over the group.
We began a circle sharing stories of kindness. I began with my story of two people who were tremendously kind to me in the most difficult time of my life. The piece went around. In these moments, the group shifted, nearly every child began to cry as they shared the story of someone in their life that offered a gesture of love or friendship. I saw how one story affected everyone; empathy filled the space, for maybe the first time in their time together. The rock returned to me, also with tears in my eyes, I expressed my wonder for what it is inside us brings tears to us, and what in us that might believe we do not deserve kindness and how does this effect the way we are with each other. The group grew quiet. Our stories resonated in the silence. Tissues passed around the entirety of the circle, compassionately honoring each other and the stories we shared.
It is immensely powerful to listen and share stories without the need for a response or interpretation, the nature of the group does it everything that is needed. To hear how your story tugs a string in my story, can change me forever.