Dialogue Becomes the Vehicle for Transformation

The dog’s bark at 9 p.m. sent Mr. Clark scurrying out of the house to catch a teenager stooping down to spray graffiti on the wall. He yelled at the boy and made him sit on the curb until the police arrived 45 minutes later.

After the arrest, Tom and his mother were agreeable to an RJMP meeting, as were the Clark’s, but scheduling was difficult with Mr. Clark’s changing work hours. The mediators persisted until all had been initially interviewed, and the meeting date set. A neighbor who had been victimized similarly was also available that day.

At the meeting Mr. Clark, after having expressed his anger, asked, “How much did the paint cost?” When the cost was estimated at $3.00, Mr. Clark commented, “All this for $3.00!”

When Tom said he was sorry, his remorse created the necessary “psychological shift” for a meaningful dialogue and outcome. It was at this point that Tom’s mother, a single parent, small in size compared to her largely built teenager, seemed troubled, confused, and helpless, wanting to protect him yet chiding him for his behavior. She wept briefly and Tom reached out to hold her hand, saying, “Don’t cry.” Then he fully entered into discussion, mentioning that he was going to graffiti school, was receiving anger management training, and attending special schooling. His mother had to pay his fare.

The second victim who had been less affected by the incident was less vocal, but she also contributed to the community spirit that was developing. She lived almost next door to the Clark’s yet they had not known one another. Her comment about her grandchildren triggered the possibility of the beginning of a new relationship between the two victims.

Both the Clark’s said they knew it was hard being a young man at this time. They advised Tom to surround himself with positive people, and Mr. Clark reminded Tom to honor his mother’s advice, saying, “She is your best friend.” The Clark’s, and the offender and mother exchanged phone numbers so there could be follow-up in helping Tom. Mrs. Clark agreed to be called upon as a mentor by Tom’s mother, who agreed that Mrs. Clark could initiate the telephone call.

The written agreement called for Tom to send a copy of his next report card to Mr. Clark. The mediators specified this be done through the RJMP office (for agreement tracking purposes). At the conclusion of the meeting Linda, the lead mediator, shook Tom’s hand saying, “Welcome to the adult world.” The report card registered all A’s and B’s with his mother reporting that Tom’s attitude had changed for the better.

However, that is not the end of the story. At a later time, Tom was again frustrated by the home situation. At a point of desperation, when he was threatening suicide, his mother said, “Call Mr. Clark.” As they began meeting again, Mr. Clark’s advice was, “Get your GED, get a job, and get out of the house.” Through this new relationship and the additional support, Tom followed through on all of this advice.

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