When I did my degree in conflict
resolution, my mentor told me, “if you
want to be a mediator you have to take
every opportunity that comes along.
I call it ‘parachuting in.’”
You Can Mediate Anywhere
“I was about to go into a very small ice cream store
yesterday, when I noticed two men inside having a
vehement argument. One was small and gray-haired,
sixty years old or more, the other tall, solidly built and
bearded. I decided to wait outside until they left. The
older left first and walked past me, I didn’t see where.
The younger soon came out but stood still, seeming
confused. On an impulse I said “Can I help?” “Maybe,”
he said. “Are you a doctor?” “No,” I said, “but I am
a teacher and I’m used to helping people. You two
looked pretty upset in there.”
“Yeah, maybe you can. My dad was about to
“That was your dad? “ He gestured past me
and I saw the older man standing about 50
feet away, looking at us.
“Yeah, he said, then called, “Dad, come here.
This guy is going to help us.”
The father came over.
“What’s going on?” I asked. “My son’s
The son responded, “That doesn’t mean I’m a
“No it doesn’t,” the father agreed.
“Anyway, I just picked him up at the hospital.”
Here the son interjected “I was just there for a
check in. I’m not some raving nut job.”
The father continued, “So I wanted to take
him to nice restaurant, but we went into one
around the corner and he got upset and
started spitting on the counter.”
“You always tell everything your way,” the
son said and spun away, but stopped after a
“Tell you what,” I said, “whatever happened,
happened. But what do you want to do
“Oh,” the son said, “you want us to move
“I want to take him home,” said the father.
“I don’t want to go home with you. I’d rather
put a bullet in my head.” (With accompanying
“I don’t really think you would, would you?”
“No, I guess not.”
“If you did, there’d be no going forward.”
By now the two were standing very close to
each other, with me facing them. “So, I can
see you love each other.” They agreed.
“So what do you need?”
“He needs to apologize,” said the son.
“Then I apologize too.”
“So what’s next?” I asked.
About the Author
Managing Editor of
ACResolution, is a
member of the ACR
and NEACR Boards,
Past President of
NEACR and of the
and the author of
several articles for
He completed his
MA in Conflict
Resolution from the
University of Massachusetts, Boston,
where he was given
the Don Paulson
Award for Service to
the Field of Conflict
Editor: When I did my degree in conflict resolution, my mentor told me, “if you want to
be a mediator you have to take every opportunity that comes along. I call it ‘parachuting
in.’” I listened, and followed, have had many interesting experiences, from theater work
to online facilitation. But recently I heard the perfect example of parachuting in from a
colleague. Here it is, exactly as told: