Imagine a world in which conflicts are transformed in healthy and productive ways. Here in Holmes and Wayne counties our vision is to do just that. On Monday October 24th, we began the journey by sharing stories, stories of conflicts transformed. While this might sound simple or perhaps insignificant, our stories and narratives of conflict shape our imagination. If we consistently hear negative stories and rhetoric, or if we spend too much time on the television or social media, or if we only ever hear how conflicts had a negative impact on the lives of those around us then our imagination to believe that there is a different way is stifled.
Guest speakers Kathleen McDonnell, Michelle Barnes, and Lydell Steiner shared stories from their varied experiences within the courts, schools and businesses. They allowed us to see hope in both the simple and complex conflicts in which they helped by facilitating or mediating the transformation. They opened our minds and hearts to think of the possibilities of what we could do here in our own backyard.
One specific theme that resonated is that working with conflict and finding resolution in healthy ways is more often found in the process rather than the product. Generally, our justice system and even how we relate to our neighbors, friends, or even our own children is about getting to the decision (product). We were encouraged to consider the importance of the process, which in fact is hard work. It takes time, energy and a commitment to: share your story, listen to the other, identify needs and interests, and then work toward an agreement which both sides can feel good about.
So perhaps the key takeaway is that if our communities desire to “reconcile relationships and develop community through education and dialogue,” then we must be mindful that we are taking a road less traveled…but not impossible. If you believe that we can transform stories of conflict in our homes, workplaces, schools, courts, or places of worship, then consider finding a way to support Connexus with your time, talents, or resources.