|Image by Max Straeten|
An office reports that they have an answering machine that instructs callers to leave their name and address, and to spell any difficult words.
Early one Monday when an assistant was reviewing weekend messages, she heard an enthusiastic woman recite her name and address and then confidently say, "My difficult word is reconciliation. R-E-C-O-N-C-I-L-I-A-T-I-O-N."
Everyone's a comic. (And I love that.) But in another sense, reconciliation IS a difficult word. If not difficult to spell, then difficult to carry out. But it's also an important word.
When my son was eleven years old he came home from school in tears one day. A couple of the older kids had bullied him at the bus stop.
We soon learned that tension had been brewing for some time. For several days there had been taunts, then pushing and shoving. And now the conflict escalated to fists. Rob wanted to stay home from school so he wouldn't have to confront the boys in the future.
We called the school and found great support. "We'll be happy to call the boys' parents," we were told. "And you should call the police."
"We don't know what we will do yet," I said. I felt that calling the police was a resort to be used when everything else failed, and I wanted first to consider other ways of handling the situation. I asked him to hold off calling the boy's parents.
The next day was Saturday. Rob happened to look out the window and said in alarm, "There are the boys who beat me up!" Two older boys were standing in front of our house, as if they were waiting for Rob to step outside.
I immediately began to think of what I wanted to say to them, but my wife Bev, a natural peacemaker, acted first. She opened the door and said with a smile, "Hi guys. Would you like some ice cream?"
They looked at each other in puzzlement. But they were teenagers, after all, so they shrugged their shoulders and one of them said, "Sure. Why not?"
They followed her indoors and Bev promptly introduced herself, Rob's younger brothers and me. She even introduced Rusty the dog. "And I think you already know Rob," she said, pointing to our son. Her idea was to help them to see that Rob was a person, not a target. He had a family; he lived in a neighborhood and even owned a family pet.
Bev drew the boys into conversation while we ate ice cream. After a few minutes, she said, "I know there's been some trouble at the bus stop. I think there may be a misunderstanding."
They nodded that there had indeed been trouble at the bus stop.
She continued, "Maybe we can talk about the misunderstanding so you can be friends."
They nodded their agreement and we talked until the ice cream was finished. Eventually the boys apologized and said there would be no more trouble. And there wasn't. Ever.
The vice-principal of the school called back the following week and asked about the fighting. "Did you call the police?" he asked.
"No, but we've taken care of it," I said.
"What did you do?" he wondered.
I said, "We fed them ice cream."
Reconciliation is a difficult word...a difficult task. But what could be more important? It may be easier to control conflict by force than to persevere and find a way through to harmony and cooperation. Force can stabilize a situation; it can impose a truce. But reconciliation leads to peace, which is a far better outcome.
Blessed are the reconcilers. May they be given all the ice cream they can ever eat!
-- Steve Goodier
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