Last week I attended mediation training in Boston. The timing was interesting, with the dates following mother’s day.
My mom was a natural leader, and mediator. She stood just five feet, three inches tall. This, combined with her terminal illness, made her physical presence less than imposing. However, her will and spirit, and beautiful face, made her indomitable. She turned every incident into an opportunity to learn, or to help.
Growing up in NJ, we had a neighbor named Andre Passamato. Andre drove his Harley Davidson to work when the weather turned nice. He left his home between 5:30 and 6:00 AM every morning, revved his engine, and shot out of the neighborhood like a bat out of hell. As a result, he woke everyone up along both sides of the street.
The neighbors were up in arms, tired of waking early and losing an extra hour of sleep every morning thanks to Andre's motorcycle alarm. They feared approaching Andre. He had big tattoos and a Fu Manchu mustache. He looked imposing. They did not want to fragment the neighborhood by calling the police.
My mom stepped up. She spoke to Andre. He was most respectful, and apologetic. He felt awful. From the moment of this discussion, he never again revved his engine in our neighborhood. We maintained a great relationship. We slept peacefully. Every once in a while I heard him pop his engine in the distance, after he was several blocks away.
Another time, a loudmouthed boy who lived up the road taunted Gene Lee with racial slurs. Gene was in fourth grade, and followed the boy, who realized he made a mistake. Even young, Gene was very strong. Mom reprimanded the boy, sent him home, and spent time with Gene. I'm not sure what she said, but Gene never had an incident again. Gene and I became friends, and teammates in high school football and wrestling. He became an incredible athlete.
My mom's capacity to listen made her able to unveil interests, to explore possible options benefiting both parties.
After my mom died when I was seventeen, my family and I went through a whirlwind of change, and my mom’s memory was cast aside. I kept a private collection of pictures and letters from my mom. I visited her grave when home from Brown. I hung onto memories of my mom's capacity to bring people together. She had great faith and natural leadership abilities.
The mediation training reminded me of my mom. I was touched by how much of the training was instinctual for me because of what she taught me. Managing conflict is a growing component of my practice and it comes natural to me. Years after her death, I still appreciate the roots of my ability to mediate as my mom’s lasting influence.