Posted tagged ‘compromise’

Grandkids Negotiations

August 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    August 3, 2019

                                   

It has been “Grandkid Week” for Carol and me. Their mom, and our oldest daughter, went back to school for several days of teacher’s meetings. That, plus she and our son-in-law are participating in a race this weekend called “The Beast”, so we’ve got the three “grands” until Sunday afternoon. By then I may be the beast!

For reference, they are ages 4, 8, and 11…close in age if you fast forwarded about 30 years, but worlds apart this weekend.

If I was updating my resume I could add the experience of “grandchildren negotiator”, for you see getting these three to agree on what activity they want to do, movie they want to watch, dinner entree they want to eat, and bed they want to sleep in is on par with getting China and the U.S.A. to shake hands on a trade agreement.

Dissension surfaces in the form of whining and stomping away from the bargaining table.

“No, Jesse!” directs the four year old. “You’re the bad man. Reagan and I are the good guys!”

“I don’t want to be the bad man.”

The four year old starts to whine. It’s her “go to” to get her way. “You have to.”

“How about,” offers the 8 year old, who often tries to find a way to compromise, “Jesse begins as the bad guy and then we’ll switch places after five minutes? And then, Corin, you’ll be the bad guy.”

The four year old digs in deeper. “No, I don’t want to be the bad guy.” She folds her arms in front of her to reinforce her position of no compromise. It is a picture of conflict between differing personalities and ages. 

They can not come to agreement. The compromiser looks for common ground, but the ground is loose sand that is constantly shifting. 

Time for Granddad to offer arbitration to settle the differences. Reagan will be in agreement, Jesse will consider it, and Corin will frown about any solution that differs from her way. She is the strong-willed child who will someday be either a corporate CEO, the owner of a professional baseball team, or entrepreneur with a defined vision. 

“How about if all of you are the good guys doing battle with an invisible bad guy?”

Jesse agrees and starts play-acting as if he has a light saber. Corin frowns. Reagan says to her sister, “And Corin, we can pretend that we’re protecting the newborn baby from the bad guys.” It has the feel of a similar storyline from the first two chapters of Matthew. It’s her Sunday School lessons emerging in her play. She reasons with her sister and puts her arm around her shoulders to help her understand the value of the scenario. 

The added touch brings the four year old back to agreement and for the next 15 minutes they work together on the mission. The 11 year old then decides he doesn’t want to play any more…and the whole series of negotiations starts over again.

Meanwhile, Carol and I are envisioning a different storyline, one that involves naps…long naps!

Wanting the In-Between

November 21, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 21, 2016

 

I went to Walgreen’s a few days ago to buy a bag of cough drops. I located the aisle they were displayed in and scanned the selections. The Walgreen’s brand had a couple of flavors to offer, but the first bag I found only had thirty cough drops in it. Knowing that I was going through about six a day I thought the next size up would be a better choice. At the other end of the shelf was a bag of two hundred.

“There must be a size in-between”, I thought to myself. I searched back and forth, and I slowed down my gaze trying to locate the in-between. To my amazement there was no in-between. It was either 30 or 200. It was either five days of relief or five years of taking up cabinet space.

Where was the in-between? And another question, where is the in-between?

Even Starbucks calls their in-between size drink “Grande!”

But the in-between is about more than just food and drink. It’s also about position and value. The American middle class has shrunk in the last few decades. During the last decade of the 20th Century it shrank because more people were moving upwards in economic class, but in the  first two decades of this century it has shrunk because more people are moving down to being lower in economic status. The importance of that can be seen in nations where there is a very small middle class. Also, without exception those countries are impoverished and unstable. People recognize that there are the “haves” and the “have-nots”, and there is a ripple effect of unrest, hopelessness, and social anger. The in-between holds the extremes together. When there is no in-between division and dissension define the culture.

I’m an in-betweener politically. I’m not sure when I settled in that position. Perhaps it is simply a part of who I am. Back in the 1990’s when I won an election for a seat on the Board of Education for the Mason, Michigan school system I ran as an in-betweener. The community was divided between those who did not want to pass the school bond issue and those who saw the increasing need for it. I ran as one who could help bring the community together, won the election, and helped in the effort to pass the school bond issue the next fall. Sometimes it takes an in-betweener to help end the tug-of-war in a community.

Even in this past presidential election I was an in-betweener! But the in-between has not been a popular place to be. It’s too rational in a time of sniping polarization. I feel like the marriage counselor in the midst of two adults screaming at each other and telling them that I’m not on the side of either one of them.

People think the in-between doesn’t stand for anything, that it’s fickle and uncommitted! Contrary to what liberals and conservatives think, the in-between is a place that looks at the long-term possibilities and direction. To use a word picture, it looks out from the top of Pike’s Peak through the clouds and haze and sees Kansas. The in-betweener is the optimist in a scuffle where everyone else is determined to be the winner.

The other night Carol and I were babysitting for our three grandkids. Reagan, our five year old granddaughter, likes to have me tell her stories. She has gotten into the habit of draping her feet across my lap and asking me to tell her a story that includes the participation of her feet. So I told her about a worm named “Squiggly” who was looking for a nice warm place to sleep that night, a place of protection and coziness. Squiggly found that place in-between her toes, and I tickled the inside spot to pinpoint where this story was going. Reagan squealed with delight and laughter, and quickly removed her feet from my lap. Fifteen seconds later she placed them back across my legs and said, “Tell me the rest of the story!” That finding of the in-between spot and laughter continued for several minutes. It humored each of its participants.

The in-between is a place of delight, a giggling warm spot that is delightfully good. It’s the place of peace in the troubling spirit of population. It’s the disappearing place where harmony can be seeded and flourish.

A Culture of Making Threats

November 13, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 12, 2016

                                     

I remember my sister, Rena, getting upset with our parents when she was about ten years old over some important issue…like the shoes she had to wear, or not being able to go roller skating on a Friday night at two o’clock in the morning. She threatened to run away from home. One time she actually did, walking heavily across the kitchen floor and out the side door of our house. She proceeded to stand on the carport for a good five minutes before “coming back to family.” As an eight year old at the time I was a little bummed. I had figured out that either my brother or I would get her bedroom. Charlie and I had to share a bedroom.

A neighbor kid about my age would frequently threaten to leave the game we were playing, take his ball, and go home if things didn’t go his way. He was annoying, and after a few threats such as that, the rest of us would let him go. We would just figure out something else to play that didn’t involve his ball.

During my 36 years as a church pastor I encountered numerous people who would make threats. It was often clothed in a statement that began with these words: “If this doesn’t happen I’m going to…” The completed statement would come from a menu of possibilities such as “leave the church”, “stop giving money”, “resign my position”, or “make things unpleasant!” Sometimes we stood firm on our position or direction and other times, unfortunately, we caved in! One thing I learned over the years: A church never goes forward as a result of giving in to internal threats!

Threats and ultimatums are immature ways for society to react to a direction that not everyone agrees with. They are like a stubborn Beaver Cleaver refusing to eat the Brussels sprouts on his plate because he doesn’t like them. (Yes! I just saw that episode on DVD!)

     This week’s election result was going to cause unrest and anger no matter which candidate won. Let’s be honest! Even though Donald Trump won there were an abundance of people who voted for him simply because they did not want Hillary Clinton; and, on the other hand, there were an abundance of people who voted for Clinton because they did not want Trump. If a third option had been on the ballot that said, “Neither One!”, it may have been the victor!

So now we enter post-election emotions and unrest around the country. Neither candidate endeared themselves to people with all the negative ads they pumped millions of dollars into!

So now what? In my years as pastor I’ve told people that two events in the life of a family necessitate change. That is, when one of these events happens things will not stay the same as they were. The events are a birth and a death! When a new baby comes along things, by necessity, change! When someone passes away, by necessity, things change! This past election was a birth event for some and a death for many. In my saying that it also needs to be said that it would have been a birth and death event if Hillary Clinton had also been elected.

In either case, by necessity, things will change. Our country will draw closer together or it will become more fractured. There will either be a reaching to find common ground or there will be a continuation of threats. Washington, which hasn’t really been a very good role model in recent years, will strive to either row together or do a tug of war of wills.

In a culture of instant gratification and self-centeredness this optimist is not very optimistic!

The Courage To Stay In The Middle

August 19, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 18, 2014

                                  

The worst person and place to be in a two-teamed shaving cream fight is the judge in the middle. After a few moments of each team “creaming” each other the judge, invariably, gets pounced on by both teams. The judge comes out wearing more shaving cream than anybody else.

The middle of something is becoming an awkward place to be. People on both sides of you want to pull you in their direction. When you’re committed to staying middle you become the easiest target.

In shaving cream battles it’s fun and humorous, but in the growing chasm of opinion that our culture is experiencing staying in the middle takes courage.

I’m sure some- dare I say most- will disagree with me. I have Facebook friends who are conservatives and Facebook friends who are liberals…Republican and Democrat…Tea Partiers and Starbuckers. I have FB friends who are pro-life and others who are pro-choice…those who attend church every Sunday and those who consider going about once a decade. In other words, I relate to people on both sides of the tug-of-war, looking for common ground with all.

Some of my richest times in ministry- spiritually speaking, not financially (GIve me a break!)- were the years I pastored in the Lansing, Michigan area and lunched every other Wednesday with two other pastors, Chuck and Tom. Even though we’ve gone our different ways because of ministry changes I still consider them to be my two best friends in ministry. One was fairly conservative ( not “Bob Jones conservative, but still leaning a little to the right) and one was fairly liberal. We toss out those labels quite often in Christian circles, but Chuck, Tom, and I never worried about our differences nearly as much as we valued our similarities. I was “the middle man” of the three, the moderate.

That experience, lunching with two guys at Finley’s Restaurant every other Wednesday for seven years, tells me that the middle doesn’t have to be a conflicted place…if there is an unquestionable commitment to respect and value one another, and be willing to clearly listen more than the compelled to speak.

Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying! I’m not minimizing the importance of people having strong opinions, just the tendency to think that their belief, stance, or opinion is the only valid one.

Jesus had strong beliefs, but he refused to be in anyone’s camp except his father’s. That put him at odds with someone in just about every teaching he gave. If there was one group that Jesus was the most consistently identified with it was the poor, widowed, and diminished. He reacted against excluding people because of their afflictions, mistakes, gender, and ethnic group.

I’m a “middler”, and I find it increasingly uncomfortable and inconvenient to be there, but I would be uncomfortable being labeled a conservative or a liberal. If you are in the middle you may be seen by one group as being a liberal, and another group as a conservative. People’s view of who you are must not change who you REALLY are.

I can watch Fox News or CNN equally without feeling guilty. I can sit in conversational fellowship with my neighborhood pastor friends from different denominations and be enriched by the diversity. I can partner with the Mormon principal of the elementary school down the street to help make our community better with a sense of confidence that we are on the same page.

As our culture becomes more polarized I believe the gospel has opportunities to draw people together. It may take time and effort, but it is….still is…our source of hope.