At a recent Restore board meeting John Gehm asked participants to recall who had influenced us to take an interest in restorative justice. Naturally, several cited parents. Others named professors with challenging ideas on the plight of humanity. Together we united those influences symbolically by tying a ribbon around our circle. Religious tradition has also influenced many of us. Giving alms and taking care of the poor has characterized the three great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The exercise set me thinking that I must already have been puzzled by the lack of justice in the human drama, by asking how I could empower myself. Those seeking restorative justice probably undergo a parallel process of open hopeful questioning.
What makes a person open to seek change and healing and equality of power remains a mystery to me. Likewise, I don’t know why some people seemingly accept inequality by drifting into crime, for example or becoming politically closed and reactionary. Inequality is a mystery in itself. Anyone who has witnessed hospitals serving victims of illness, reflected on prisoners serving time for crimes committed, considered how sweatshops use the disadvantaged economically, or noted some soldiers survive and others die must have pondered the mystery of life’s inequities.. Innocent people starve because of upheaval, and families suffer arbitrary tragedies. There is no easy consolation to the riddle of social inequality.
Changing the equation isn’t amenable to simple advice like, “Make use of what gifts you have.” Nor do I have the right to quote the parable of the talents that to those who have shall be given more. However, if I cannot prevent inequality, I can participate in the unity of all human beings to drive beyond inequality to share in the good and bad fortunes of others, to give attention to options, to share in a struggle to help shape better options. As a human being I cannot understand the mystery of inequality, but I can grasp that for each of us something better is possible. When two minds come together believing that something better is possible, restoration can happen. I cannot restore all to equality, but the certainty that I am participating in something greater than myself gives me the courage to endure the riddle of inequality although I cannot solve it.
Peter Holland, Director