I've just returned from travelling to Chicago for our daughter's engagement party and I'll admit it, I am one of those travellers who enjoys talking to strangers. I find that because of the temporary nature of their acquaintance, you can often learn more about their lives than they would share with their most intimate friends. On the way back to the airport, I was (affectionately at least) teasing my 82 year old mother, who, by that time, was getting on everybody's nerves. The woman seated across from us smiled and said, "that puts a good perspective on my weekend". She had, we soon learned, been in Chicago to bury her mother, who died suddenly. She learned of the death not from her estranged brother (who lived there), but from a cousin, who posted it on "Facebook". On the trip home, I sat beside a woman about my age who told me she'd have help making Thanksgiving dinner this year from her son, who was attending culinary school. I learned later that he had dropped out of High School after his parents spent $48,000. in rehab therapy, and that she was struggling with her husband to persuade him to allow him to stay in the family home after he turns 18 next month.
In the mediations over which I preside, I hear so many personal stories of strangers. They are grateful to have someone who will objectively hear them out. What did I do wrong to deserve to be fired from my job? Why didn't he appreciate the loyalty and energy I put into building his business over so many years? Why didn't they like me on the floor of the hospital where I worked? Why didn't they understand that I just needed some more time to heal? Why didn't they know how badly I was hurting? Why didn't they apologize?
The stories and small acts of kindness of strangers can make so much difference. Listening to the stories and reflecting on the little acts which make a life can be so important. On this Thanksgiving morning, I am so grateful to have these opportunities--large and small to provide perspective, levity, hope and friendship to strangers among us. Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.
Attorney Jan Frankel Schau is a highly skilled neutral, engaged in full-time dispute resolution. Following a successful career spanning two decades in litigation, she has mediated over 700 cases for satisfied clients. Ms. Schau understands the nuances of trial and settlement practice as well as client relations and balancing the needs of their representatives with the risk and expenses of trial. Those who have used Ms. Schau’s services recognize excellence in her persistence, optimism, creativity and integrity.
Ms. Schau was the President of the Southern California Mediation Association in 2007 and is recognized as among the most outstanding mediators in Southern California in the mediation of civil disputes by her peers and clients. She also serves as a Trustee of the Board of Directors of the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and has presided as Chair of it’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Section and Litigation Section. She holds a Certificate of Advanced Skills in Negotiation from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution of Pepperdine University as well as from the Western Law Center for Disability Rights at Loyola Law School.