Friday, May 18, 2007

Collaborating with Fellow Peacemakers

This week was highlighted by a Quarterly Breakfast hosted by the Western Justice Center Foundation. The WJCF is dedicated to bringing together non-profit organizations whose mission is consistent with their own: finding ways to bring peace and justice to our community. I was thrilled to meet vibrant young spirits there who represent the United Nations' efforts to clean our environment, a nursing care advocate's rights group, a group dedicated to the rights of adolescent mom's, a group repesenting children of incarcerated parents and the Dispute Resolution Services representatives, who perform community mediation through the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Together, these fine individuals and organizations are changing the face of our community--tackling hard issues and helping to repair our broken spirits and uplift our optimistic souls. Bravo! Thanks go to Najeeba Syeed Miller, Director of the WJCF for bringing together this inspiring group and as importantly for sharing the vision originally proffered by Judge Dorothy Nelson, of the United States Court of Appeal, 9th Circuit, who was the Founder of the Western Justice Center Foundation. It is a worthwhile experiment which holds a world of promise for our future!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Authenticity and Angels

This has been an introspective week, colored in large part upon two women mediators who I hardly knew, but touched me deeply. On Tuesday, I heard Linda Meyer speak on "Authenticity" in mediation. Linda urged a group of SCMA members to seek out our true selves and approach every individual with our own humanity. She gave us permission to be "in the room" and a part of the process. She reminded us that settling a case was the easy part of a mediation--but connecting with the parties in conflict was our true art. Then on Thursday my colleague and fellow woman mediator, Holly Spevak succumbed to her battle with cancer. I only met Holly on one occasion, through a mutual friend, Susan Bulfinch. Holly had a website for her visitors' comments. I spent about 30 minutes yesterday reviewing how this elegant woman had touched lives--from Junior High to her own law students in so many ways. It made me think about the insularity of our business, and about the concomitant far reaching potential we hold. Although many of our clients will only see us once, we have the chance to touch them, to reach them, to connect to them in ways that may change their lives forever. This was clearly Holly's legacy. Happy Mother's Day to my readers (who of course include my own mom!). May the wisdom of our foremother's be forever in the forefront of our minds and hearts.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Doing the Right Thing Correctly

I took a wonderful Class this Week given by Peter Robinson, Dean of the Straus Institute of Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University and Robert Benjamin from Portland, Oregon. Peter spoke about the role of Apology in Mediation. I was struck by the discordance between what most of us agree is "good" and what most of us agree is "right". He offered the example of a child who throws a ball through the neighbors window. There, most of us would insist that our child go over to the neighbors, acknowledge his wrongdoing, offer to make reparations and ask for forgiveness. On the other hand, in a collision on the 405 Freeway, we would likely not consider offering to pay for the damages and asking for forgiveness on the scene, as this may wreak havoc with our insurance carrier's official "policy". I'll share a moment of grace from this past week. Many years ago, my husband and I had a falling out with a lawfirm where I was subletting over a series of errors in a document they were preparing for his business. We refused to pay the bill, and I lost my office. This week, for the first time in about 6 years, that attorney (now turned mediator) took me out to lunch. He reached out to me, acknowledged that he never felt good about the way that was handled and asked for our forgiveness, or at least understanding. I don't know whether it's a metaphor or reality, but since I saw this gentleman last, he has gone for a PHd in Divinity and lost 140 pounds. So he's been touched by grace and is substantially lighter than he was when last we saw one another. So the next time you stop to flog yourself over something you've done wrong--reach out to your assailed one, and apologize. It's right and good...and you may even find yourself lighter and feeling better all the way around!