Betty asks that we all add to our family story. The story doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be funny, It doesn’t have to recount a traumatic experience. It is information about us that if we don’t write down, will be forgotten. I think it’s a good idea so I’ll add one here.
In 1981 our family moved to Jamaica to work with Mennonite Central Committee. I was to teach in a secondary school in Port Maria – a small town on the North coast.
We settled in to our home which was a duplex that we shared with a young Jamaican family. About a month in, the neighbor across the back yard sent word asking me to come over. W
e didn’t have a phone. The neighbor was a tailor. People would bring him cloth, he would measure them for what ever they needed and and a few days later there would be a new suit or what ever it was they needed.
it seems that one of his customers had purchased an item of clothing and made arrangements to pay for it over time. Now there was a dispute over how much was left to pay. They had prearranged the amount of each payment and when it was due. The tailor thought there was more money due and the customer thought he was paid up.
I don’t remember the exact terms of the agreement. It was over 30 years ago. I just remember being very uncomfortable and wondering why they thought I might be able to settle the dispute. I asked the tailor to explain what he thought had transpired and I asked the customer to wait until the tailor was finished before he spoke. The tailor had a ledger where he wrote down every payment the customer made. When the tailor was finished making his case, I asked the customer to speak and asked the tailor not to interrupt.
If I remember correctly, the customer remembered running into the tailor in town and making a p
artial payment. Therein was the cause to the misunderstanding. By letting the other talk without interruption, they each could hear what the other was trying to say and they were able to understand the cause of the misunderstanding.
You have to understand that we were up in the country where folks spoke patois. It’s English but until you get used to hearing it, it is difficult to understand. It’s not like I was able to listen to each side of the story and then make a judgment on who was right. I was able to get each of them to let the other speak and get each of them to really listen to what the other was saying. They finally were able to come to an agreement and I was so glad to get out of there.
I’m sure there is a lesson there somewhere.