Maureen and Eamonn from The Junction facilitated Monday morning's lecture. Where we had heard Charlie and Jim tell their stories from the stand point of a man who had been unjustly handled through interrogation and prison after an act of war and a man who had been unjustly handled by the RUC and the courts, Maureen and Eamonn gave very little of their full stories. What they provided us with was the story of the Junction and the residential groups that they put together to facilitate peace and understanding between those who have been affected by The Troubles. They went through several pieces on how to be ethical and how to plan appropriately for facilitating these groups so as not to cause further harm or place anyone's lives in danger. They then offered us the chance to participate in making a bracelet where beads signify representative events or pieces of our lives. They said it would be helpful to those of us who would like to facilitate this type of workshop. See here for a similar project description. We took that chance and it would happen in the afternoon.
It was an honor to be in a room with my classmates to listen and share. Out of respect to the process that we worked through and their stories, I will not go into detail about my classmates or what we discussed. To the right are my beads. What struck me was seeing my life in a time line and how certain events impacted other events for both positive and negative. The bracelet was significant in that it held my truth, but did not, in itself, possess emotion. It sat like a beautifully bound history book that only I could translate.
We were asked to see the project from the standpoint of former combatants, victims of the violence, and police and military officers who served during the conflict. In building the bracelet and finishing it off, I was struck that life is not defined by the incidents of trauma. Those incidents, while the representing beads may physically be larger or darker than the others, are surrounded by regular life and they become a part of something of beauty. Maureen said that building the bracelets could help those who were having trouble processing give some organization to their life story by physically manipulating the location of the beads on the bracelet.
The telling of life stories and listening re-define the participants to the others. No longer are identities easily put into the silos of Unionist, Loyalist, Nationalist, Republican, Victim, RUC Member, British Soldier, or Paramilitary Combatant. Seamus and James are able to hear, maybe for the absolute first time, a life story from the other side and look at that person as a flesh and blood human being. Intersecting realities loom large in this process. There are points where great empathy for a former enemy can grow. The project provides a prepared, relatively safe space for people to be heard by other people.
It was a powerful, beautiful, and trust-building piece to this learning process and I will cherish my little beads.