Matt Daniels, guest blogger, is a volunteer with NCRC and splits his time between doing leadership development work and overseeing construction at the Nashville Zoo.
August, 29, 2017
It was Monday, and my 17-year old texted to ask if she could go to the mall after practice instead of coming straight home. I was about three rounds into my standard sms parent-teen negotiation, telling her we hadn’t seen her much lately, when my phone rang. It was her. She was actually calling me from school. Either really bad, or really good. This time, for her at least, it was really bad.
“Dad, there’s kind of a situation going down, and we need a mediator!” I asked a little more, and it turned out that there was an altercation between one of her team mates and a young adult who was helping them. I tried to listen well and not do the classic act of “dad-invalidates-teen.” This time, for the most part, I was able to show up.
I wasn’t neutral, but I knew I could at least try to act neutrally for the moment, and just take it all in and form a picture of what was going on.
“Well, so-and-so did such-and-such and was falsely accused of…” And so went the tale. I promise I really did listen, but the details are just that. Details.
I told her, “Hey sweets, you know I am connected as a volunteer with Nashville Conflict Resolution Center. We can call them up right now, and they will come. Would you guys like that?” A few minutes had already gone by as she vented. She had been listened to, and the situation was improving itself in real time. She was in a different frame of mind, was pretty sure they could work it out, and just wanted a little time to get a coke and debrief with friends at the mall. Another adult was able to step in and get people talking to each other. But none of that really mattered. What stuck with me the most was one sentence:
“Dad, we need a mediator.”
Seventeen years old. In high school. And mediation is a go-to for her. Mediation as a construct did not even exist in my mind until after forty. But at seventeen, my daughter has been raised in a world where problems get solved, and relationships re-orient toward truth and understanding, because of mediation. Knowing mediation is there, that it is useful, and that it is accessible, makes her world a much safer place.
Can you imagine what our city might be like if we all walked around with that same awareness?