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Kindness in Battle and in Mediation

June 30, 2013

The idea to write today about kindness came from an unusual source:

I was reading about Freemasonry (I am a Mason) in the context of the Civil War.

Why?  Because this is the 150th anniversary of the battle at Gettysburg, and I am fascinated by stories of the many Masons who participated there and throughout the war.

Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead and Union Major General Winfield Scott Hancock are possibly the most storied Masons at Gettysburg.

Their close personal and Masonic friendship is now celebrated in the Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial at the Gettysburg National Park.  It depicts a mortally wounded Armistead, after crossing the field in Pickett’s Charge, handing his personal effects to Union Captain Henry H. Bingham, also a Mason, to give to Hancock for safekeeping.  See, http://gettysburgsculptures.com/friend_to_friend_masonic_memorial

That moment of kindness (and Masonic fellowship) on the part of both Bingham and Hancock, to comfort Armistead, to honor his request, and to take into trust his personal effects as he lay dying, is but one example of many such occurrences among Masons, and across lines, throughout the Civil War.

Others included friendly and considerate treatment of Prisoners who were Masons, allowances for Masonic funerals across lines, conferral of Masonic Degrees across lines, protection of Lodge buildings, restoration of Masonic items of value, and so much more.  See, Roberts Allen E.(1996). House Undivided: The Story of Freemasonry & the Civil War. Richmond: Macoy Pub & Masonic Supply Co.

According to one online dictionary, kindness is defined as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” See, http://oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/kindness.

Kindness also occurs in mediation, and can help not only in setting the tone for negotiation but also in sealing the deal.

Some of kindnesses that occur in mediation include: giving a facial tissue when tears come, providing opportunities for a short break when appropriate, offering nourishment, acknowledging the feelings of the other side, giving concessions that allow for reciprocity, expressing empathy, apology, gratitude, sympathy or just understanding, shaking hands, addressing one another without attitude, and so forth.

In one recent mediation, although inconvenient to do so, one side allowed the session to end and scheduled another session simply because of child care concerns of a single mother on the other side.

In another, one side brought baked goods to share with the other side.

In yet another, one side made specific accommodation for the wheel-chair bound litigant from the other side.

And in one more, very late at night when the settlement agreement finally had been drafted and approved, both sides allowed the spouses, at home sleeping, to sign the next morning rather than waking them in the dead of night to sign.

Circumstances at mediation may not be as dire as on the battlefield at Gettysburg, but kindness and courtesy in mediation can make a huge difference in reaching one’s goal or at least in minimizing an otherwise difficult experience.

I am all for kindness, in whatever form or circumstance in which it takes place.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California, a Mason, and an aficionado of American History.  His business website is located at http://karpmediation.com .

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