A Neighborhood Misunderstanding

Dana moved from urban Chicago to a small town to be nearer to her grandmother. Prior to moving, Dana lived for 27 years in an apartment with her mom in a rather rough urban neighborhood. Dana was raised to “mind your own business” and not to engage the neigh­ bors in conflict. As she put it, “You never know who is living next to you-they could be dangerous!”

Across the street in her new neighborhood live Tommy and Mary Klimes. The older couple was retired, with a grown son who lived elsewhere in town and an elderly Boston terrier named Button. The couple didn’t have a fence, but Button didn’t wander too much. Besides, all the neighbors knew Button belonged to the Klimes.

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Button didn’t like Dana from the first moment they saw each other, and anytime both were outside, Button would bark and run at the new neighbor. Dana felt threatened by the dog. She also was apprehensive about talking to the neighbors directly, so she called the police instead. The police came, stopping first at Dana’s house to get her statement and then crossed the street to speak to the Klimes. The Klimes were not given the name of the person who complained about the dog, but later another neighbor told them that the police had stopped at the “new neighbor lady’s” house. Tommy, noticing Dana’s car in her driveway, promptly walked across the street to introduce himself and apologize for the dog. He rang the bell and knocked, but there was no answer.

Several days later, Button barked at Dana again and came into the street as she got into her car. Again, Dana summoned the police. This time, the Klimes were issued a citation. When Dana returned home from work, the neighbors’ son was outside of his parents’ home and yelled obscenities at her as she walked into her house. Mr. Klimes heard the comments, came outside, and admonished his son, and then walked across the street to apologize to his neighbor.

However, Dana, feeling threatened, didn’t answer the door. Tommy knew she was in there and peeked in the front window to see whether she just didn’t hear the bell. Finally giving up, he went home. Afew minutes later, the police arrived for the second time that day. Dana had called reporting that her male neighbor was peeping in her windows.

Welcome to the world of mediation! You are about to study an activity that spans many cultures and thousands of years. Mediation, one form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), is a process where a third party helps others manage their conflict-a worthwhile activity in itself. However, mediation is more than just another alternative to the court sys­ tem or an offshoot of community problem solving. For many practitioners, mediation is a philosophy of human nature, or as Phyllis Beck Kritek argues, “the resolution of human conflicts is a moral enterprise that is the responsibility of every human” 

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