At the height of the pandemic, I stumbled upon Toni Morrison’s 1998 interview with Michael Silverblatt called The Writing Life. During their conversation, she explored the question of love under duress more specifically “How are we able to love under duress and, when we can’t, what distorts love for us?” While her thoughts on this question were through the lens of a writer, I thought more deeply about a possible answer through my lens as a restorative practices practitioner coaching school communities where the staff, students, and parents were attempting to love under the duress of a pandemic. What I came to was this: Restorative practices are how our school communities can love under duress when love has been distorted by the isolation and uncertainty of a pandemic.
Restorative practices (RP) to me, is a way of being that grounds us in our everyday commitments to love. If love is “…an act of will, both an intention and an action” (bell hooks, All About Love) then restorative practices is a clear pathway to move our intent of love into action. Because I love you, I am kind with my words (affective statements).
Because I love you, I am curious in my questioning (restorative questions). Because I love you, I am committed to knowing you more deeply (proactive circles). Because I love you, I am open to accountability (responsive circles). Through our everyday restorative practices, we engage love as more than just a feeling but a culmination of everyday actions grounded in commitment and intention. With RP, love is no longer a mystery in its definition nor is it flexible in its demands – it is clear and it is concrete.