By Henry Stoever
A facilitator from the Center for Conflict Resolution “takes the temperature” of about 40 13-to-17-year-old boys by asking them each to say what, right now, are their feelings or attitudes. The facilitator asks the youngsters to think about inclusion, belonging, listening to each other, being listened to. All connected. “No one left out.”
Moving on to conflict resolution, the facilitator advises, “Calm yourself down” before attempting a one-on-one with someone bringing conflict into your life. “If you are in a rage, it won’t come out right,” says the facilitator, who then introduces STEP:
State the problem. Share it with someone else, if possible.
Think of a solution.
Pick the best solution.
Not an easy process. A major challenge for boys in the Urban Ranger Corps in midtown Kansas City, MO. The Rangers are selected each year from many applicants as those most in need of support in their growing-up years. At risk. The Rangers’ summer program extends through the school year, with touch-base times to see how the youth are doing in school and in their daily lives. PeaceWorks-KC funds four training sessions each year with facilitators from the Center for Conflict Resolution, and I attended one session this summer, held after a hefty breakfast I brought, also funded by PeaceWorks.
The boys divide into four groups to consider themes of resilience, collaboration, perseverance (bouncing back), cooperation, coping. The facilitator asks, “Who are you with? Who’s in the company you keep?” and advises, “You create your own good or bad results.” The facilitator suggests, “Reach out to a counselor.” The youngsters discuss dignity, which all are entitled to, and respect, which must be earned.
For a “did you know?”—the Rangers learn that camels have three eyelids, protecting them from desert sands. Camels’ ears can flip back, helping them hear what’s behind. And they have two-layered lips, with the outer lips protecting them from thorns and sharp objects. Amazing, huh?
The facilitator suggests that during a disagreement, it’s wise to use neutral words, to say, “I hear you saying …” instead of outright arguing. “Don’t use value-laden words that can hurt,” adds the facilitator. Then stuffed animals come into play concerning conflict choices. The youngsters identify a shark with an attacking force; a turtle with self-defense, crawling into a shell; a bear with accommodation; a fox with compromise; and an owl with collaboration. Different ways of being.
In other words, the youngsters get tips that may come in handy in their daily lives. A win-win.
—Henry Stoever chairs the Board of Directors for PeaceWorks-KC. Anyone interested in going with him to a free breakfast (with a voluntary donation) for the Center for Conflict Resolution should contact Stoever, 913-375-0045. The breakfast is Sept. 20, 7:30-8:45am, at Grand Street Café, 4740 Grand, KC MO.
Youth in the Urban Rangers Corps take part in community projects each summer, including painting, gardening, and cleaning tombstones at Union Hill Cemetery.—Photos by Matthew Hicks of Overland Park, KS