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A Story about Guillermo

Last night was the first night of Chanukah and also Christmas Eve. For various reasons including illnesses in the family, my wife and I ate dinner at a local restaurant that we frequent.

Guillermo (not his real name) was there. He has been a busboy at that restaurant for many years.

In my mind, the term “busboy” is demeaning, especially for a person like Guillermo who is perhaps in his 40s or 50s.

But I suppose “busboy” is the job description for such an unskilled laborer who assists the waiters, clears the dishes and cleans and sets the tables.

It is likely a minimum wage job.

I do not know much about Guillermo except that I know he works at several restaurants and has two or three jobs concurrently to support himself and his family. I have seen him elsewhere.

I do not know his immigration status and it is none of my business, although I certainly fear for him now that things have changed politically.

Guillermo is one of the hardest workers I have ever come across. He is quick, efficient and diligent, respectful of customers, and so industrious and dedicated to his job.

At the end of the meal, I approached Guillermo privately, as I have done in past Decembers, and discreetly handed him some cash, wishing him a Merry Christmas.

“I always appreciate how hard you work,” I said to him.

I received a huge smile and a warm embrace in return.

In Wikipedia, the concept of dignity expresses “the idea that a being has an innate right to be valued, respected, and to receive ethical treatment.” See, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dignity

I suppose that is the moral of this story.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

They Did Not See Eye to Eye.

I looked up the idiom “seeing eye to eye” and found this today:

“Agree completely, as in I’m so glad we see eye to eye on whom we should pick for department head. This expression appears in the Bible (Isaiah 52:8).”

See, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. (2003, 1997). Retrieved December 10 2016 from http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/see+eye+to+eye

I also looked up its opposite:

“The phrase ‘see eye to eye’ is used to mean when two people or two parties agree when it comes to a certain topic. But, the phrase is often used as ‘we didn’t see eye to eye’ or ‘they couldn’t see eye to eye,’ in which case it means something about how two people or parties could not come to agreement on a specific topic, or they just couldn’t agree in very general terms because they didn’t like one another.”

See, http://www.programmerinterview.com/index.php/american-vocabulary/see-eye-to-eye-meaning/

In a recent mediation, which ended without agreement, the parties did not see eye to eye, perhaps because they did not see each other, at all.

That is, one side simply would not agree to meet in person with the other side, to hear or consider the latter’s personal views on the subject of their disagreement.

Perhaps this decision not to meet together – for an opportunity to listen and learn – protected this one side from certain contradictory information which might have impacted its position.

In Cognitive Barriers To Success In Mediation: Irrational Attachments To Positions And Other Errors Of Perception That Impact Settlement Decisions, available at http://www.mediate.com//articles/PR_CognitiveBarriers.cfm , the authors, Bennett G. Picker and Gregg Relyea, refer to this phenomenon in at least three ways:

Cognitive Dissonance. This bias refers to the fact that it is psychologically uncomfortable for most people to consider data that contradicts their viewpoint. Disputants and their attorneys tend to resolve conflicting information by justifying their own conduct, blaming others, and denying, downplaying, or ignoring the existence of conflicting data.

Assimilation Bias. The tendency of individuals to see or hear only that information that favors their position is called “assimilation bias.” Victims of assimilation bias behave as if adverse information was never presented to them.

Inattentional Blindness. We tend to see/hear only that which we are focused on…. Similarly, many parties and their counsel fail to see and assess the “big picture” (e.g., overall case value, themes of a case, jury appeal factors, witness appearance) because they are focusing sharply on other specific points.

But what if, in addition to the private caucuses of the day, the parties had come together for a person to person exchange of information and ideas?

Both sides might have learned something new about the conflict, and perhaps they may even have found a way to resolve it.

But they chose not to come together, which is their right inasmuch as it is their mediation.

Consequently, they did not see eye to eye perhaps because they would not.

And thus, an opportunity may have been missed.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

2016 Letter re Donations in Lieu of Holiday Cards

To My Friends, Family, Colleagues and Business Contacts:

It has become an annual custom of mine to make charitable donations at this time of year in honor of family, friends, colleagues, and business contacts.

I do this:

• in lieu of buying and mailing commercially available business and personal holiday cards;
• to extend my best wishes for the upcoming holiday season; and also
• to fulfill what I believe to be a social responsibility in any event to help repair the world (Tikkun Olam).

As I have written before, I see these donations as a way to put humanity back into the season … and also as a way to voice my own personal objection to the din of holiday television and radio commercials and the wearying retail and commercial blather we will face through the end of the year.

Current events usually dictate where I send my money. This year I have made two donations in your honor:

(1) to the “JFS { SOVA Thanksgiving Virtual Food Drive;” to fight hunger; and

(2) to the Anti-Defamation League, to fight hate.

In making these donations, as I have said previously, I wish for peace, contentment, good health and well being for each of us and for all those in distress and/or at risk in our communities and around the world.

I also wish for less hunger, more tolerance, and the compassion that supports both.

Sincerely,

DAVID I. KARP

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator principally of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

Civility and Its Opposites

I have been thinking about civility and its opposites again.

I was reminded of these concepts yesterday at the annual conference of the Southern California Mediation Association.

Early on at the conference, I had a chance opportunity to meet another conference attendee, Russ Charvonia , who is the President of The Civility Center and whose personal goal is to be a catalyst in restoring civility in our society.

Well, that had me thinking, but there was more.

I then heard the keynote address from Hon. George J. Mitchell, former Majority Leader of the United States Senate, who received SCMA’s Cloke-Millan Peacemaker Award at the conference.

Naturally, he reminded me about the upcoming election and the unfortunate but pervasive hostility, disrespect, and rudeness embodied by the contest for the Presidency.

Later, in the Advance Track Program for experienced mediators like myself, a mock mediation took place as the focal point for analysis in which, among other things, one of the “actors” played the role of a snide, aggressive lawyer while another played the role of disputant full of hostility and defensiveness.

In fact, it was very much like a real mediation, because those personalities and behaviors do appear from time to time.

I have written about these issues before, and, in the hope of being a catalyst to restore civility, like my colleague Russ Charvonia, I will simply reprise these prior posts by reference, as follows.

You can look for more on my blog, but here are a few highlights for you:

Civility

Kindness

Aggressiveness

Bullying

In our conversation, Russ Charvonia reminded me, because he is a Mason, as am I, that civility and Freemasonry go hand in hand, which is why I follow Masonic Principles in my mediation practice and in life and recommend the same to each and all of my colleagues and readers.

***

David I. Karp is a full time mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His professional website is at http://karpmediation.com .

A New Beginning

Today is Simchat Torah (meaning “Rejoicing in the Torah”). It is a celebration marking the completion of the annual cycle of reading the Five Books of Moses, ending Deuteronomy and immediately starting Genesis once again.

This reminds me that there are many new beginnings — in life, and also in law.

Certainly, by way of example, childbirth is a new beginning not only for the baby but also for the family.

At the other end of life, there is another new beginning following the death of a loved one, as the survivors grapple with their grief and take hold of their new situations.

You can think of other examples without my listing them.

In law school I took a course in Debtor/Creditor Relations, including Bankruptcy. A central concept of the law of Bankruptcy is “the fresh start.” The debtor has a new beginning when there is a discharge of prior debts and obligations.

In mediation, there can be new beginnings too when people understand and surmount the disputes facing them.

Indeed the management of conflict through a mediated settlement can bring about a great sigh of relief when the dispute ends and people feel that they can get on with their lives.

In fact, mediation celebrates the possibility of a new beginning once the risk, threat, cost, and uncertainty of the conflict have been resolved.

It is remarkable, after the settlement agreement has been signed, when people can say, “I’m glad that’s over; now I can move on” or words to that effect.

I like that part of mediation very much.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

An Unorthodox Approach to Yom Kippur

Sometimes, I think best when I write, hence this post.

This year, I took a rather unorthodox approach to Yom Kippur (our Day of Atonement), not by spending the whole day in the synagogue reciting the liturgy, but rather by taking the time at home to think about the meaning of the day.

I did read selections in one of our prayer books in our home library, but then I reviewed the chapter on Yom Kippur in The Jewish Holidays: A Guide & Commentary, by Michael Strassfeld, also in our home library, which was actually more thought provoking.

In it, Yom Kippur was likened to facing death and choosing life, as a metaphor for repentance and renewal.

By recalling my experiences with, and reactions to, my heart attack and stenting, now seven months ago, I was actually able to relate more concretely to the ideas of Yom Kippur.

Immediately following the heart attack, I had one stent placed in a coronary artery but had to wait three weeks for the second stent to be so placed.

It was in that period of time that I was certain I was going to die.

Thankfully I have lived through both procedures and am now in good health.

Nevertheless, this was a scary time for me and I went through it with trepidation and fear, and also introspection, like now.

In fact, shortly afterwards, I wrote this poem:

My heart murmurs its thanks
To all who saved me
First to God who oversees all
And to my wife with whom I share my life
Then to my children and family
For their loving kindness and concern
And of course to the physicians
Whose magic opened my arteries … and my eyes.
The heart is the center of life
And of emotion.
I am overcome by all of it.
As I look to regaining my strength.
I am out of the heart of darkness
But not like Mistah Kurtz – he died.
My own river of life flows more freely now
And courses through my thoughts.
I am grateful for life, for family
And for the joy of living
To see what lies downstream for us all.

Since that time, I have become more aware than ever concerning my life and my surroundings, and I continue daily, including today, to thank God –

– for loving family and caring friends,
– for life where and how we live,
– for the air we breathe, for the light of day, and for the majesty of the stars at night,
– for the nourishment of good food, and even
– for the second chance given me to be a better person in my daily life, through mitzvot (good deeds), tzedakah (charitable action) and other things.

This is the change of Yom Kippur, from facing death to choosing life.

This is my renewal.

Amein.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who thoughtfully writes about other things as well. His website is at http://karpmediation.com .

Taking Time and Making Time in Mediation and Elsewhere for Reflection

Tradition holds that this is the time of year for reflection. Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) begins this weekend and it starts a ten day period culminating in Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). These ten days are the “Days of Awe” (Yamim Noraim).

This is the time to reflect on many things: what the last year has brought; what the new year will bring; from and to whom we can ask or grant forgiveness; whom we can thank; what we have done and can do to improve social justice; and so forth.

Reflection is actually an important part of mediation as well. It is a time in which disputants can move from anger, resentment, retribution, and the like, to an acknowledgment that there is harm, including self-harm, in these feelings. It is a time for “mending fences” as it were, and for moving on in life.

Sometimes, with the time pressures of mediation and the associated costs in attorney fees and mediator fees, even if moderate, only a little attention can be given to the process of reflection. Sometimes, everyone (except the mediator) wants “to get to the numbers” right away.

But time for reflection is important, and needs to be built in, because of the emotional content of nearly every dispute. Thus, it is critical that the mediator have control over the pace of the session, making time for the inevitable outbursts or catharses, for the posturing and positioning, then for the consideration of underlying interests and needs on both sides of the table; then sometimes for apology and forgiveness; then finally for the reflection and acknowledgment that an emotional and expensive burden can be lifted with compromise and cooperation leading to a satisfactory resolution.

I am all for pacing the mediation to allow the process to work, and I am all for reflection that leads to change.

Which brings me back to the Days of Awe. In this next ten day period, I too will reflect: on my life; on improving my life and the lives of others; on my family and friends and their needs and interests; and on all that’s good, and can be made better, in the world.

And I will try to leave past burdens where they should be – in the past.

Hoping that you too will take time, and make time in your mediations and your personal lives, for reflection, I wish each and all of you who celebrate a good and sweet New Year of happiness, health, prosperity, and change for the better.

***

David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California. His business website is at http://karpmediation.com .

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