It amazes me that we so often pray and pray and pray for something and it seems as if God never hears our prayers. However, when God wants something, it happens in the snap of a finger. About four weeks ago I was listening to a local talk show and I heard a woman on the show who was from a group called Conflict Resolution Center. She explained their mission of getting people to sit down and talk about their issues before they went to court. It saves money for the people, and valuable time on the court calendar.
That made sense to me. I did a Google search and found a center near me.
Their website had a video presentation about how the process works. I watched it and thought, “I don’t think I want to get involved in that.” However, the Holy Spirit is persistent and this cat’s curiosity would not rest. I called the center and they had a “Taste of Mediation” session coming up in a week. It was free (right cost) so I signed up and went to the session. Once I had seen a demonstration of how the process works, something just told me I was supposed to do this.
There was one feature that especially intrigued me. It is called Restorative Justice. When young people have a run in with the law and they need to go to court, it is recommended that they attend a mediation session first. Hopefully, they can be made aware of their transgressions, work out a remedy, and ideally change their lives for the better. Pie-in-the sky? Let me tell you a story.
I plunked down $600 to take the entire course and am in the middle. It is a thirty hour course and in the “time-out” we are in, we are to observe two mediation sessions, then go back and complete the last eight hours of training. Once I finish, in the state of Minnesota, I will be what is known as a “Qualified Neutral.” And that is exactly what we are supposed to be, neutral. We do not judge, take sides, or give advice. We use non-directive measures under what is called “Facilitative Mediation.” The object is to get the two parties talking with each other and resolve the conflict to the satisfaction of both parties. Hopefully, a relationship will be started that will eliminate future conflicts.
There is a Christian conciliation group called, Peacemakers.net that does something similar, but from a Biblical point of view. That is my next step. But back to the conflict resolution and my story abouthow this works with youths in trouble. I observed a Restorative Justice interview last week, where the perpetrator was a young tenth-grade-girl and the victim was Kohl’s. The young woman and her mother came in and there was a Facilitator and a “proxy” who was sitting in for Kohl’s.
The interview began with the Facilitator asking the young woman why she was there. She looked sheepish and replied, “Because I stole.” A few more questions were asked and then the Facilitator asked the Proxy to talk with the young woman. One of the questions the Proxy asked was, “What did your mother and father think when the police brought you home?”
The girl laughed, “My mother did the same thing when she was young and she didn’t get caught.” (That came up later in the debriefing. The mother was minimizing the incident because she had done the same thing. I am sure in her mind, she was kind of “relating” to the daughter, but not in a positive way.)
The Facilitator did not let this lesson go. She turned to the mother, “You did the same thing but you did not get caught?”
The mother replied, “Yeah.”
The Facilitator pressed, “Did you tell your mother?”
Facilitator, “Is your mother still alive?”
Facilitator, “Are you going to tell your mother?” The mother grew quite sheepish, and I believe the light came on that what she was teaching her daughter was wrong; it was not dealing with the idea of theft.
This article is too short to complete all that went on, but the young woman became quite repentant and within an hour she changed from a young lady who did not think this was a big deal to a young woman who realized she was being given a second chance and wanted to make the best of it. She agreed to write a letter of apology to Kohl’s, to sign up for 10 hours of Community Service. She also agreed to have a meeting with four of her younger siblings — who had been scared when they saw the police bring their sister home — behind closed doors and tell them what she had done, why she was wrong, and why she would not do that again. She set her own time line (the meeting with the siblings was going to be that night).
We hear about using the talents, time, and treasure, God has given to us to make this earth a better place to live, and I believe that Conflict Resolution is one way I would like to live out the Beatitude, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, they are will be called children of God.”
If you would be interested, I would urge you to Google either Conflict Resolution or go to Peacemakers.net and learn more about this process.
Go, make a difference.
Be happy. Be courageous! Shalom!
(© 2011 Stu Walker)