Sadly, the great communication that followed probably won’t be.
But the infamous Christmas caroling incident at the local Charlie Norwood Veterans Administration Medical Center last December – in which students from Augusta’s Alleluia Community were mistakenly prevented from singing religious carols in public areas of the facility – has been more than amicably resolved.
The resolution is this: The students will be welcomed back next Christmas to spread cheer among veterans – with no such restrictions on what they can sing.
No lawsuits, no protests, no contretemps of any kind. It really is that blessedly simple.
But that doesn’t mean the resolution was automatic. It took a gentle confluence of good will, humility, serenity and faith. On a number of parts.
The Alleluia Community, which chose not to sing at all rather than sing only secular songs, had no interest in a fight or lawsuit. That’s not what they’re about – even if the unfortunate mistake last December flew in the face of the Christian enclave’s goal “to witness to the Christian life, culture, and unity that God desires for all people.”
Meanwhile, from the sounds of it, local VA management could hardly have been more gracious after the snafu. Indeed, Pete Scovill, spokesman for the Augusta VA, said earlier this year that it was all a miscommunication, that the students are welcome back, and that “It won’t happen again.”
“Director (Robert) Hamilton and I worked to help them understand our regret and ensure they received an invitation to participate this year as they have in the past,” Scovill told us Tuesday. “Our Veterans and our staff keenly enjoy their songs, energy and camaraderie.”
Officials at the Alleluia Community report that VA director Hamilton apologized to the Alleluia Community School and even expressed gratitude to them and other groups for their service to veterans.
In turn, the Alleluia Community “is appreciative of Mr. Hamilton’s candor and good will in discussing and helping resolve our issues of concern,” it said in a statement provided Tuesday to The Chronicle.
Folks, this is how it’s done. This is Dispute Resolution 101: It’s properly approached with respect, dialogue and humble gratitude for the “other side’s” good intentions.
Too often today, people dig in, arch their backs and call in the lawyers at the drop of a hat. They run up huge legal bills, pile up the ill will and end up with an imposed solution that perhaps no one involved likes.
How did this turn out differently? Well, that gentle confluence.
First, the Alleluia Community exhibited a restraint and tranquility all-too-rare these days. And again, the management at the VA was nothing but conciliatory and congenial.
It also helped that the two entities saw themselves as friends and neighbors – in part because several people were both a member of Alleluia and an employee of the VA.
We also have to think the Alleluia Community members’ abiding faith granted them the forbearance to trust that things would work out to God’s plan.
This is leadership by example. It’s truly witnessing one’s faith. It’s how to resolve problems and move on.
The end of this episode may not be as big a news item as its beginning was. But maybe it should be. It’s an inspiring model of how to turn down the decibels, ignore the popular template for controversy, and find a way to overcome the most emotional, lightning-rod issues in today’s society.
Now, that’s news!