By Melanie Nathan, January 26, 2014.
“If anyone can mediate these two, Mel, its you. I apologize ahead, though, they are extremely contentious and very difficult., so much anger, I hope you get passed the first session, and will forgive me!”
Well always up for a challenge, and of course understanding that professionally I could not rely on the word of the referral source, I would have to ascertain for myself if they would work for mediation.
It came time for the first session. My protocol is to explain the mediation process, take questions and then to dive into the urgent issues that may require immediate resolution, such as transition parenting plans and interim support.
When the pair arrived at my office, they looked forlorn, defeated, sad and a sense of bitter anger gripped the air. We sat down in an atmosphere that could be cut by a chainsaw.
I started the session a little differently this time, and reaching into my pocket, I pulled out two coins – gold in color – made of a material called BU. I placed one in front of each of the parties and said the following:
“ I am not sure if you recognize the face of the man on these coins – it is Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and former South African President, Nelson Mandela. You probably know exactly who he is (this was a couple years ago, before he died) and you probably know that peace came to entire nation, in what might otherwise have been a bloodbath, because this man, despite his own bitterness and 27 years in prison, forgave. It could not have been easy to do, but he put his nation in front of his own needs and for that he became known as The Father of The Nation, Tata Madiba. We know forgiveness can be done.
I am asking you each to hold onto one of these coins, which is my gift to you. And to consider the metaphor – you will see the inscription around his face– it says “Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela – A long walk to freedom.” Your 3 children comprise your nation and you will have to find ways to move into a space where you can put their interests ahead of yours – ahead of what you each have been through in this relationship. It can be done – forgiveness!“
Of course, forgiveness is critical, and we all talk about it for mediating couples all the time. In this case the symbol of Mandela, represented by a face on a coin, seemed to have a magical impact. It was is if they breathed a collective sigh of relief in that moment of holding their newly acquired coins, and everything became relatively relaxed in that room. The ice was broken and the long road opened to an attainable benchmark.
The tool put a face to the fact that indeed forgiveness can be accomplished. Whether actual forgiveness is ever realized or not, matters less than the very consciousness about it, and its possibilities. Hence its path as goal, is in and of itself a helpful concept, as it opens the door to productive discussions and provides the ability to recognize when anger is getting in the way of settling the issues.
I have now started to use the coins and the legacy story as a standard tool in my practice. These coins are sold between $8 to $15 each depending on quantity.
Of course it is easy for me to do because I provide communication and public relations services to the South African Gold Coin Exchange, which owns the worldwide rights to distribute all Nobel Peace Prize Laureates on coins and medallions. Most coins/medallions are pure silver and gold and are limited edition collectibles, which range from $250 to $4,000, and include former President Nelson Mandela, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Aung San Suu Kyi, Elie Wiesel, and others. However these special give away gifting coins are much cheaper, and cost between $8- $15 each plus shipping from the U.S.A., depending on how many ordered.
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