The thought that we have in this newsletter, or in the “understanding based approach” to mediation, ready answers can obviously seem and be presumptuous and can even keep us cut off from the  struggles that are upon us all.  Yet, can we, we ask, reach for ways to seek to connect, to seek to honor the underlying connection of who we are as human beings together in this society in the face of, in the midst of, the too often felt experience of the deep divisions that so sadly appear to beset so many?

Conversely, to be quiet in the face of difficulty, because they are indeed so many and so large, can be to cover our eyes, our ears, our mouths, our hearts.

What we can do, at least for ourselves, is to seek to understand — to bring understanding for ourselves and for others and with others as we seek to understand and express often different deeply held views.  We can seek to understand, while not necessarily agreeing with, the differing perspectives, experiences, feelings, commitments of others and of ourselves as we face and feel the pain, and sometimes also the hope, around us and within us.

To say that we are all connected, at times like these, may seem naive or somehow misplaced, even distasteful, however true it may be.  Certainly, we may not be in touch with the connection between us or we may experience it only by the pain and anger that we can feel in losing touch with our contact with one another.  Yet as we view it in the understanding-based approach, our underlying connection is there.  Whether and how we experience it and what we do with it is an ongoing question and challenge.

In the face of all we see and may be a part of in the larger communities and society of which we are all a part, we also face the challenges and opportunities posed by conflict in our work as mediators.  In light of the larger conflicts that we see reported and at some level are ourselves a part of, the challenges posed in our work with personal mediations between disputing parties may seem less significant, less important. Yet they can be as significant and important to those we serve and also to ourselves.

It is on that journey to a deeper level — through hurt, anger, frustration, resentment, despair, hope (and much more) — that we can reach a deeper possibility of supporting parties in dealing effectively and meaningfully with their conflict. It is also possible that the larger context of conflict in society can bring greater sensitivity for us in our work with individuals in mediation, and our work with parties in mediation can bring greater sensitivity to our and others’ understanding of the larger social challenges.