The first involved a 4x4 and a moto . . . the second, a misplaced cell phone. Both had three things in common: intercultural participants, a growing-more-aggressive-by-the-minute mob, and a lone intermediary.
You know, it can be stressful enough trying to get two sides of a story after one of life's little hiccups, but it becomes a bit of a circus when three or more languages are being tossed around like hot potatoes and the entire village shows up to see what all the commotion's about.
But as I was standing on a dirt sidewalk, trying to share what I, as a witness, had seen, I realized that I wasn't speaking to the two men involved, rather to a third man . . . one who had not been present during any of the surrounding events.
He had nothing to do with the situation.
He didn't see the cell phone drop out of a pocket onto the car roof. He didn't see a passerby spot the phone. He didn't see that man try to return the phone. He didn't see us drive away. He may have seen us pull a U-ie and race back into town, but if he had, it didn't matter, because he didn't see the man that took the phone voluntarily approach our car and return it with all the whistles-and-bells still intact.
No. He had nothing to gain, and nothing to lose.
He was however, the most important part of the whole scenario. He was our intermediary.
In a gentle voice, he drowned out the cries of the mob and he spoke to each party and then the witnesses. With a great sense of calm, he helped to clarify misunderstandings and keep tempers at bay. The intermediary knew the role he had voluntarily assumed was as peacekeeper and peacemaker.
And he was effective.
You know, this stranger got me thinking. In Nigerien culture, it is important to use an intermediary when resolving conflict . . . no matter how small. But, I think there's a lot to learn from this role outside of the context of conflict-resolution. He didn't take sides. He didn't form judgements. He didn't make demands. He didn't even raise his voice.
He was a man of peace.
Romans 12:18 tells us that when 'possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all men.'
So this stranger who emerged from the dusty mob on the side of the road in a middle-of-nowhere village has made me stop and ask myself: Am I a woman of peace? Am I keeping it and making it? Or am I the loud angry voice in the mob stirring up the hornets' nest?