Muffin Diplomacy

It’s 2001 and I have a case to mediate. The mediation is taking place about 100 miles

away in a small, Vermont town in the southern part of the state. As I arrive, I see there is large

chicken coop to my front. A old farmhouse is to the left and an old out-building is to the right.

I park my car. I’m not certain where to go so I stand in the dirt roadway. As I do so, my

opponent arrives. I don’t recall the reason but I don’t particularly care for my opponent. It’s

likely we shared an unkindly word or two. My opponent gets out of his car. It’s his first time at

the farmhouse too.

My opponent walks to the roadway. It’s just the two of us. Both of us are in a foul mood.

Nothing much is being said although it is possible that “good morning” was grunted by one or

the other of us.

After about 5 awkward moments in the driveway, an older woman comes out of the

farmhouse. She has a basket of hot muffins. They are buttered blueberry muffins. They smell

delicious. They look fresh. The woman walks over to us with a warm smile and says: “Boys,

how are you? Would you like a delicious blueberry muffin?” My opponent and I said

“absolutely!” I now see that my opponent and I are kindred souls.

As my opponent and I stand in the driveway and eat our muffins, we begin to talk about

how good the muffins are. We talk about how nice the woman is. We notice the chicken coop

and wonder when the last time was that there were chickens there. We feel the peace that is in

the air. It is in the fabric of the place.

As we finish the muffins, an older man comes out of the farm house. This is the man

who will mediate our case. “How do you like my wife’s muffins,” the man says. He then stands

in the road way and tells us the story of the chicken coop. He tells us about the children he had

raised at the farm. He tells us how much he loves to be there.

At this point, my opponent and I are best buddies. We enter the out building across from

the farmhouse. As you enter, the man’s office is directly to the front. To the left is a room made

into a conference room. There is a picture hanging. It almost looks like a picture of Norman

Rockwell but it is a picture of the mediator’s father. He tells about the picture.

We sit at the table. We are all friends now. We discuss the case. By lunch, the case is

settled. The mediator’s wife brings us some wonderful sandwiches. We eat them outside, get

into our cars and leave.

As I look back, I can’t remember why I had been angry at my opponent. The blueberry

muffins seem to have dulled my mind.