The chocolate milk summitThe chocolate milk summit
I took these three kids fishing, we'll call them Mauer, Morneau and Kubel. Mauer was eight, his cousin Morneau was 10 and Kubel, Morneau's friend was 10. We were on a pontoon, with plenty of room to walk around. One fished off the side and two straight off the back. We were trolling, getting snagged, catching weeds and not many fish.
I wasn't fishing, just driving and helping to untangle the lines and keep the peace. We had one rule only: we catch and release anything but a walleye big enough to keep.
First, 10-year-old Morneau caught a small mouth bass -- not too big, but lots of fight. We quickly took a picture of the two of them, and the bass was happy to get back into the lake. Later, 10-year-old Kubel caught a long string of weeds so heavy I had to help him pull it in. But lo and behold, there was a walleye on the end of that weed snag. We dragged in the weeds and the walleye, and it turned out the walleye was just big enough to keep, so we put it in our walleye tank and kept fishing. Kubel said his grandmother in Fargo loved fish, so he wanted to keep the walleye for her (after the guide cleaned it).
It wasn't long before Morneau got a snag and his line snapped. He lost his lure and many feet of fishing line. About that time, eight-year-old Mauer, who had no fish to that point, said, "I've got one." He started cranking and there was stiff resistance. He cranked and pulled, needed a little help from the guide and finally pulled in not a fish, but many feet of fishing line and Morneau's lure. Very disappointing for Mauer, but a relief for Morneau to get his lure, although it was hopeless for Morneau to try to use his tangled line again.
Then the discussion started. Morneau told Mauer it was his fault so much fishing line was ruined. Mauer was outraged. "What do you mean my fault, you lost the line by yourself, I saved your lure." Morneau countered with "but you made it worse..." I couldn't follow the argument, but it went on and on. Nobody was giving any ground. Finally Kubel, the one who caught the walleye for his grandmother, said, "that's enough -- just leave it." I seconded the motion. But eight-year-old Mauer, a scrapper, had had his feelings hurt and he was still barking at Morneau, who had let it go.
Finally I proposed a peace conference. I had just read about President Obama inviting the Cambridge, Mass., policeman, Sergeant James Crowley, and professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., to the White House for a beer for a "learning moment." Gates is a black Harvard professor who had trouble getting into his home and a neighbor, thinking it was a break-in taking place, called the police. Sergeant Crowley wasn't convinced that Gates wasn't a burglar, they had words and Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct. It was all sorted out at the police station, but President Obama jumped in and called the police work "stupid." All three had made stupid mistakes. So Gates and Crowley were invited to the White House for beers with the President. Vice President Joe Biden sat in. It was a casual, friendly meeting with smiles and chuckles, and the press called it "The Beer Summit." Their conversation was not recorded.
So, after taking a picture of the walleye with the three boys, cleaning it, wrapping it in foil and putting it in the freezer for later delivery to Kubel's grandmother, I invited Mauer, Morneau and Kubel to a peace pow wow, each to select a drink of his choice. Eight-year-old Mauer ordered chocolate milk (he was the feisty one -- I expected him to ask for buttermilk -- I was relieved when he ordered), Morneau had lemonade and Kubel, the peacemaker, had orange juice. I had coffee with just a nip of half and half. If these guys had been 10 years older, they would have still been steaming. But at eight, 10 and 10, they were quickly forgetting the argument and were talking about the next time they would have a chance to go fishing. Our conversation was not recorded. This was our chocolate milk summit, and it worked.
The moral of the story is this: The best way to make peace is face to face, everybody around the same table with a beverage of his choice, an attitude of reconciliation and one or two peacemakers setting the table and encouraging friendly give and take. We should try it more often -- in our neighborhood, in this country and around the world.