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A Third Way

Guest Columnist, Alice Marshall

On May 7, the Rev. David Marshall introduced us to Jesus’ call to “A Third Way.” “Love,” he said, “is hard to do. How are we to love our enemies? Are our only options when people sin against us to roll over and take it or to seek retribution? Is there a third way?” Since then, I have seen examples of A Third Way all around me: on the news, on Facebook, at work, and last week, on a trip to Portland with my friend, Wilma.

One afternoon while we sat in our motel room, reading through our stack of books from Powell’s, a large group of boisterous young men began a party in the room immediately below us. They were whooping and laughing, and they seemed to be settling in for a long night of frivolity. This was clearly not compatible with a quiet night of reading.

Should we roll over and take it? I had ear plugs, and I could shut out the noise. This seemed like the simplest way. No ugly confrontation, no need to even talk to them.

Should we seek retribution? We could call management and make sure that the young men were punished for the noise and inconvenience. Justice served.

What would be A Third Way? Wilma put her book down and said, “I’m going to talk to them.”

She approached with a smile and curiosity. Like us, they were in town to have a good time. They had been to the soccer game, and Wilma is both a fan and a player of the game, so she talked to them about that.

They said, “Sorry, we’re getting drunk, so we’re pretty loud. We’ll probably be even louder later.” Wilma told them she was glad they were having a good time. She said, “Part of our good time, though, is sleep, and we have to get up early tomorrow morning.”

“So,” she went on, “if you disturb my rest tonight, I’m going to come down here and we’re going to have words. If someone calls management on you it won’t be me. If I have a problem, I’ll come talk to you myself.”

With that, she left them and returned to her book. Shortly afterwards, the young men left for dinner. Late that night I heard footsteps on the stairs, and a lot of loud shhhh-ing, but then not a peep. In the morning, Wilma and I got ready to go as quietly as we could, fulfilling our part of the bargain.

Wilma asserted her humanity and recognized theirs. She engaged the young fans, found a place of common ground, and appealed to our mutual needs. (Ours for a quiet night, theirs for a quiet morning!) A Third Way can preserve or even build relationship. It can be a win for everyone.

I want to hear your thoughts about A Third Way. What examples have you seen lately? Please share them with me in person, or by email. Next week I’ll share some thoughts about more challenging situations, and how we might approach them with A Third Way.

Yours in Christ,
Alice Marshall