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The Gift of Reconciliation
December 29, 2012
By Karen Rose Messerli
I have always loved Thanksgiving because it offers us a unique opportunity to just stop and choose to be grateful for the blessings in our life.
Blessings of family and friends, the blessing of good health, the blessing of being loved and to give love, the blessings and special gifts of friends who are no longer with us but continue to live in our hearts and we continue to walk the paths of all who have touched us.
I think that one of the most important gifts we can choose is the gift of forgiveness, of reconciliation, to be able to reach out instead of continuing to hold on tight to anger and bitterness.
The gift of choosing to walk a new path, perhaps one of budding friendship.
Today I am taking the opportunity to apologize to someone who was hurt, not intentionally, but hurt just the same and over the years bitterness and anger built and continued to build until a point where civility was no longer possible or even hoped for.
The person I am apologizing to is John Ivey, a longtime businessman and developer in Lee’s Summit.
About 18 years ago, as a new mayor, at the request of our legal staff, I wrote a letter to our staff reminding them of our policy that once a matter goes into litigation any further discussions need to be referred to the legal department.
That letter set of a round of anger and frustration that lasted for the remainder of my 16 years of service. John and perhaps some of our staff interpreted that letter as “gag order” that stopped any communication.
Instead there were scathing editorials, horrible cartoons and bitterness that continued to grow as each day passed.
Every council meeting offered an opportunity during public comments to scathingly attack.
Rarely did I respond because I tried to hold myself to conduct befitting the office of the Mayor and for the most part public comments was a time for us to listen.
The pivotal moment for me was something very ugly that occurred during the dedication of our new City Hall.
John was successful in actually reducing me to tears that day, something not easily done and after that I no longer cared what he thought or said.
About a month ago I was driving and thinking about what could I have done differently in order to achieve a better outcome and to my shame I found the list substantial.
First and foremost I would never have written that letter and a more experienced Mayor would not have. If the legal department wanted a letter written on a legal policy they should have written it. That was their job; not mine.
More importantly, in the very beginning I should have invited John in for coffee to try and understand his point of view and explain what I was trying to accomplish which was never what he thought. I owed John an apology and explanation and it should have been face to face with a heaping spoonful of humility.
I’ve always found it interesting why it is so difficult and sometimes impossible for people to simply say “I’m sorry”.
It doesn’t always mean it’s your fault and you’re taking responsibility (although in this case it did). Sometimes it simply means…I’m sorry this happened to you. Is there anything I can do to make it better?
It’s funny how communication really is the key to our success, our fulfillment our satisfaction at the end of the day of a job well done.
People are fragile, we bruise, we fall down and have to get up again and sometimes we need help getting up again. I’d like to think that I’m the type of person that chooses to help because there have been so many that have been there for me.
I am truly sorry for the pain, anger and frustration that I am responsible for having caused John Ivey. It was not intentional, but it did damage just the same.
Reconciliation truly is a gift. A gift to be offered, a gift to be received, and then a chapter that be closed.
There is quote that I have always loved, it goes something like this…”Courage isn’t always a loud roar, sometimes it’s a quiet voice at the end of the day that says, I’ll try again tomorrow.”
Maybe that’s one of the greatest gifts as humans that we are offered, the ability to try again tomorrow.
Thank you, John, for your gift of reconciliation, that you so graciously accepted. I want to thank you for your kindness.
Karen Rose Messerli,
Mary C. (Riordan) Guthrie