Stutzman Amstutz, Lorraine. Perspective
Lorraine is the director of the Office on Crime and Justice at Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
In mid-June we said good-bye to the home where our family has lived for the past seven years. Our 13-year-old son stood up during the open sharing time at our church farewell where my spouse has been pastoring and said, "Well, I'm not sure I want to in move to Akron. I feel like I've grown up in Quakertown . . ." He's had a tough time with the transition and each step of the way I've thought about how to respond to his challenging actions and his probing, persistent questions. I tried to do so in a manner consistent with the principles of restorative justice that I had just spent seven days talking about in a class I was co-teaching at Eastern Mennonite University. I wish there were easier "how-to's" but the reality is that those principles are about our relationships with each other and how we respond not only in a crisis but also in our everyday lives.
We made the move to Akron, PA where I will work in an office with my peace and justice colleagues at the Mennonite Central Committee after working from my home-in an office by myself! My husband will be pastor of the Akron Mennonite Church. As transitions go, I think ours has been pretty smooth. Yet I found myself feeling stressed and overwhelmed and went to my closet, shut the door and cried. I probably wouldn't have admitted that until I looked at a book one of my colleagues is reading about women in leadership. It points out the extent to which expectations about how to lead have been developed and mandated by men. Women, trying to "make it" in leadership roles, have learned to act like men in order to be taken seriously. Crying for a woman in leadership is not only seen as weak but often as a form of manipulation. The reality is that it is a natural human emotion that should be viewed as acceptable by both men and women. I generally wear my emotions on my sleeve and sometimes feel very frustrated by that when I have my "leadership" hat on. I feel weak and vulnerable.
Recently I have thought a lot about leadÃâÃÂership and those involved in the field of restorative justice. I've had many discussions with friends and colleagues about why it's been a predominantly male dominated field in terms of the "gurus." I am so very grateful to the men who have wrote, talked and taught about restorative justice but have also wondered, "Why aren't the women doing the same thing?" There are certainly as many women in restorative justice who are as articulate and intelligent as these men. Obviously, that's not a question that will be answered here but an important one as we think about living out the principles we have come to believe in.
I wish there were easier "how-to's" but the reality is that those principles are about our relationships with each other and how we respond not only in a crisis but also in our everyday lives.
I appreciated Harley Eagle's opening in his article, explaining that writing is not a format he is comfortable using since he comes from an oral tradition. I read his article very differently hearing that and wondered why. I then realized it was because of his honesty in making that statement. He wasn't saying, "I have this truth that I need to share with you so you can follow it." It was his story and he allowed us to walk with him for a small part of that journey. I think, as a woman in leadership, I feel most comfortable with "sharing the story" which can be viewed as not being substantive enough. The truth is, that's what restorative justice is about: the stories. The stories of victims and offenders and how the harm has affected them and their communities. The stories of students trying to figure out relationships in a setting where there is intense pressure to behave in a certain way -- a way they may not like but learn to live with. We have developed principles about how to guide us in listening and responding to those stories, but it is nevertheless the story that should be at the center.
I feel the same way about restorative justice as I did about the move. I'm excited by the possibilities and overwhelmed by the work involved.
Conciliation Quarterly Vol. 20, No. 3.
Reprinted with permission from Mennonite Conciliation Service.