JANET M. POWERS
We Can Work It Out
Recently NAFCM, the National Association for Community Mediation, queried members as to songs about finding peaceful solutions to difficult problems. A barrage of e-mails followed, generating an amazing list of song titles. Just to share a few, let me mention “Nobody Right, Nobody Wrong” by Michael Franti; “Healing River” from Pete Seeger’s “I Can See A New Day” album; “Imagine” by John Lennon; “ Hard to Say I’m Sorry” by Chicago; “We Can Work It Out” by the Beatles;” and “We Just Disagree” by Dave Mason.
I wondered whether we could use these songs in a Conflict Resolution Training course? Or could we produce a remix CD to hand out to parties who successfully come to agreement after multiple mediation sessions? Although neither of these ideas is about to take shape, the long list of song titles (and there are many more) suggests that the core idea of mediation is at the heart of human experience. Why else would so many people write songs about hurting each other and trying to make amends?
From time to time, we are all embroiled in conflicts, sometimes over big issues, sometimes over small ones. We have an innate need to end our conflicts, but often we don’t know how. Some people find it truly difficult to say, “I’m sorry.” I remember speaking to a group of family caregivers and hearing one of the women say firmly, “I will never be able to forgive.” At the time I was shocked, but since then I’ve come to understand that it takes enormous courage to admit human weakness. It also takes hard work to address a thorny problem and arrive at solutions that work for both sides.
Because we believe that mediation is a superior way of dealing with conflict, the MSAC Board of Directors and MSAC mediators devote time and energy to providing varied possibilities for alternative dispute resolution. We offer inexpensive mediation because we want the public to have every opportunity to experience this way of solving problems. We deliver Conflict Resolution Training to individuals and organizations, and even offer scholarships for participants from non-profit agencies and churches. We make available, free of charge, anti-bullying information to parents and educators because we see a connection between children learning how to respect each other and adults being able to work out problems in a constructive way.
All of these efforts require funding beyond modest amounts paid for mediation and training. Enter our pink flamingos, a fund-raising scheme that has raised a few hackles but also raised much-needed funds for MSAC. It’s September, and although the weather is still tropical, the Mediation flamingos will be winging their way south very shortly. Typically, we close our fund-raising year with their final appearance at the Adams County Heritage Festival. Phoenicopterus ruber plasticus will not be sighted again until May 2015 when this extraordinary bird will arrive unexpectedly on the lawns of Adams County citizens.
We would like to thank those supporters who donated generously by responding to the flamingo challenge or paying for “anti-flocking insurance.” You continue to help us to keep this vital effort of community mediation alive in Adams County, and we are grateful.
Janet M. Powers is Presiding Officer of Mediation Services of Adams County and Professor Emerita at Gettysburg College. Contact MSAC at www.mediateadams.org