Archive: Circling up at the Family Reunion

September 1, 1999
By Nicole Luce

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Each month The Circle Way offers an illustrative story of how someone is effectively using circle practices and principles to change or enhance a gathering. This first Cirlce Tale comes to you after the month of family reunions and is written by Nicole Luce of Freeland, WA. Nicole was a participant in PeerSpirit’s winter kayaking trip to Baja Mexico in January 1999 and she works with Christina in neighborhood organizing on Whidbey Island.

For the past 15 years my four siblings and our families and parents have been gathering in cabins in a mountain setting, most often with a lake nearby. We come from the Midwest, the northwest, the central west, and California. This year nine adults and fifteen boys ranging in age from 9-15 attended our week long reunion in Colorado. Having used The Circle Way circle successfully with a team at my Forest Service job and on a kayaking trip to Baja last winter, I decided to try it with my family.

The first evening I asked the family if they were willing to gather together each day to discuss a topic or to answer a question. Everyone was willing. Since it was Father's Day, our topic for the first evening was fathers. I lit a candle to signify that we were in circle and said that whoever was holding the koosh ball was the speaker and others would listen attentively. Personally, I was amazed by the stories that came forward. We older siblings discovered that our Dad, who we never saw hike or camp or show any interest in the outdoors, was very active in Boy Scouts with a younger brother!

The youth quickly stepped forward in a leadership role. By day three they wanted to move outdoors to a campfire and initiate the topic. They lit the fire, called the circle, then offered the question. As the week progressed, there were often diversions from the one voice/many ears mode while someone shared a joke or engaged in conversation with the storyteller. But within minutes we effortlessly slipped back into circle format. I came to cherish hearing the individual voices of my nephews and some of the quieter adults who had scarcely spoken in earlier large group gatherings.

At our closing circle we created a Family Reunion "flag"--a T-shirt to which each of us added a momento and explained its significance. The circle gave us a tool that deepened our sense of safety, togetherness and storytelling. When the Luce clan re-unions in 2001, I wonder who will be the first person to ask, "Are we going to have a circle tonight?" And I can't wait to hear one of my circle-experienced nephews as he explains to a newcomer about what we do in the circle and why it's meaningful.