How are you really?

A talking piece is small, meaningful and symbolic object passed by the circle “keeper” to regulate communication. Only participants holding the talking piece can talk while others listen and reflect on what is shared. This talking piece is made from amethyst – a stone known for offering protection to the bearer.

Have you ever had someone ask “how are you?” and answered honestly?

THAT is a powerful thing to do.

When I reflect on my first virtual community building circle, I am once again surprised by how much restorative practices connected a group of acquaintances. We passed the virtual talking piece to each other as we shared and listened to our COVID-19 struggles. And I remember, as I constantly forget, that talking about how you are really feeling, and not the mask you put on for the world, is what really gets you through uncertain times.

As I continue my learning in restorative justice, I see the importance of “modeling.” The keeper of the circle sets the tone of the conversation by modeling the first response to each round of questions. If they answer with a short or surface level response, everyone else will likely do the same. However, if they speak their truth and feelings in that moment, the sentiment often spreads.

But, this is not just present in circles.

In our world where “How are you?” is the same as “hi,” we overlook the opportunity to answer that question truthfully. We quickly respond back with a “good, how are you?” and move on with our day.

So, let me say, this situation is hard for me. We are living in a world of uncertainty, monotony, and isolation, and I am struggling to feel connected to my friends while balancing the stress of school with the dangers of this pandemic. I am fortunate to have the resources to be home with my family, safe, fed, and loved. But I still feel like I am missing something, like I have lost something with the spread of this virus.

Now, my challenge to you is to answer truthfully to your family, friends, and even colleagues. We are all struggling right now, some more than others, and we need to feel like we can talk about it. And if you open up, then maybe others will open up too.

I am passing this virtual talking piece to you…