My introduction to the Georgia Conflict Center came in 2012 at the end of an intensive group social justice study through the Catholic Center at UGA called JustFaith. Former Mayor Gwen O’Looney came to speak to this group of sojourners about the work of Georgia Conflict Center, and the opportunity for volunteering. I had taught for almost 20 years at that point and was searching for new ways to work with the children of Athens Clarke County. GCC seemed like an open door, so I began to work in the office with John Lash. Gwen was the acting Executive Director and I had the privilege of teaching alongside her in the Fourth Street neighborhood and at the Diversion Center. I learned more than I taught and quickly realized I knew next to nothing about healthy, restorative ways of engaging with conflict. At the same time, I was completing my formation to become professed into the Third Order of Secular Franciscans, an Order established in the 1200’s by Brother Francis and Sister Clare. The parallel ways of living in the world between Franciscan teaching and Nonviolent Communication were inspiring and and a confirmation to me that I was where I needed to be!
In 2013, I lost my husband of 32 years, musician and humanitarian Herb Guthrie while on his last trip to Uganda. Having meaningful, challenging work to do, and the gift of new, rich relationships through our work at GCC made my journey through widowhood much more bearable. It has been a steep learning curve for a former Art, Early Childhood, and Special Ed teacher to become a Program Director of a small nonprofit, and I am deeply grateful for the tutelage of our outstanding Board of Directors and Advisors, our supportive NVC community, and to Gwen and John for giving me this opportunity to learn while practicing conflict resolution skills. I am also forever grateful to my two “kids”, Sara and Ian, granddaughters Samantha and Gabriela, and newest grandchild Atreyu Jonny.