Conflict has been a large part of my professional life since retiring as an actor. I spent 13 years as a teacher in a continuation high school where high school students who have fallen behind in credits come to make up those credits and graduate. When arguments or fights were imminent, I would take them into my “office”, which was a bench outside my classroom, where I frequently heard histories of chronic abuse, domestic violence, drug taking, gang banging, pregnancies, murder, and jail. I had to complete countless police reports as a court-mandated reporter whenever a student told me what had been done to them the night before or over the last weeks, or months. I listened, never judged, and more than anything tried to give them a new perspective and arm them with choices. For a time I ran the Student Intervention Team, mediating between students, their parents, and the school. It was never my place to take sides, although sometimes it was difficult when good students did not appear for class only to discover that they had been shot and killed the night before in a drive-by. When I retired, two of my students were in jail convicted of murder.

So it was a logical progression for me to become a mediator, where I can listen to people who have lost sight of their choices and have dug themselves into long tunnels of frustration, resentment, bitterness, and rage, and where I try to provide them with a new perspective and new choices and encourage them to really listen to each other just as I listen to them, without judgment or bias, just care and compassion.

In the next section, I will tell you how my twenty-five years as a professional actor helped me to become a better mediator.

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