Cloud Hands, Derek Lin explains in The Tao of Joy Every Day, is a tai chi technique which represents the proper way to deal with confrontation – with “softness and deflection”.
Today’s reflection brings to mind a funny story about Thor, who I consider to be an expert at diffusing and managing difficult situations.
My eldest daughter, Marie, lived in a cheap basement apartment during her last year of college. The building was not well maintained, and the landlord was haphazard about paying the utility bills. As a consequence, Marie and her roommate came home twice to discover that the hydro had been shut off and the food in their fridge was ruined. To complicate things further, the heat was shut off in the midst of a cold snap, and the two girls were beside themselves. They refused to pay any more rent until the situation was resolved.
Thor advised the girls to take the matter to court, and allow a judge to decide how they should proceed. He and I were dating at this point, and Marie did not know him very well. He offered to accompany the two young women, which they readily accepted.
Mid-morning I got a frantic phone call from my daughter. “Mom,” she blurted. “I think Thor is about to beat up my landlord!”
I could not imagine Thor beating anyone up, so I asked her to explain further.
“When we got to court, it turns out that Thor knows our landlord. They exchanged a few words, and then Thor asked him to step outside so they could settle it. He’s going to beat him up! What should I do!”
“Calm down, Marie.” I assured her. “I am pretty sure he is not the fighting type.”
“Mom, you are not here! You didn’t hear it!”
“I know, Honey, but I know Thor. There is some misunderstanding. Call me back when you know what is going on.”
I hung up, wondering. “Step outside and we’ll settle this” is an invitation to fight; had I misjudged Thor?
Thor himself called me when it was all over. “Everything is settled,” he said. “The girls will be reimbursed for groceries lost, and he is giving them a break on the rent.”
“Ah, Thor, how did you get him to agree to all this?”
“When we got to court, I recognized John immediately. I didn’t know he was their landlord. I knew John and I could sort it out; we didn’t need the court process, so I asked him to step outside….what’s so funny.”
“When Marie heard you say “Let’s step outside and settle this”, she thought you were going to beat him up.”
Thor joined in with my laughter, as did Marie when we explained it.
“Violence doesn’t solve anything, Sweetie.” Thor told Marie. “It only compounds the problem. I really just wanted to step outside and settle the issue. And that’s what we did. Reasonably, as two adults can.”