Wohali and Danuwoa had grown up as the best of friends in the Cherokee family, but for the past year they had become estranged. Both were thought to be prime candidates to become the new tribal chief since the current chief was close to death. While both Wohali and Danuwoa relished their friendship, the strain of who was going to be the next chief had pushed them apart.
On one fall day, both were out hunting. Both had shot at a huge deer and when they went to retrieve the deer, they were surprised to see the other’s arrow also in the deer. That led to a huge argument with both claiming the deer. The dispute came close to a fight with knives, but Wohali stomped off with bitter words for Danuwoa.
Danuwoa was distraught and looked to the sky saying: “Creator, how can we ever be friends again?” The Creator said: “Go to him and find a way to restore your prior friendship. I will help you.”
Danuwoa yelled for Wohali to stop, but he didn’t. The Creator then placed a patch of huckleberries in Wohali’s path, but again he didn’t stop. “Those berries are too small to worry with,” Wohali thought to himself. As Danuwoa was catching up with Wohali, the Creator placed blackberry vines in Wohali’s path. Again, Wohali didn’t stop thinking: “Those berries are too sour.”
As Danuwoa was getting closer, the Creator placed a patch of small red berries in the path of Wohali. Wohali was on his way past the berries, when he saw that they were increasing in size. He was intrigued, so he stopped and picked one to eat. The berry was sweet and juicy, so he ate another one and continued eating them. Finally, Danuwoa caught up to him and began eating the berries. They started talking about the berries, and how they would share them with the tribe. The tensions of the past began to dissolve and Danuwoa and Wohali were on their way to reconciliation. Together, they agreed on a name for the berries: strawberries. “These berries are a sign from the Creator that we should forget our differences and work together to lead our team.”
The above adaptation of Cherokee lore reminds us of the essence of reconciliation. The seeds of tension between people often begin with the basest of human emotions: jealousy, greed, worry, shame, envy, etc. We let the emotions fester. Rather than letting the emotions heal over time, we keep picking at the scabs and spreading the wound.
Reconciliation will not come until we can no longer deal with the anger, the sleepless nights, and the distractions of the conflict. One party to the conflict may need to initiate the reconciliation. Often a third party may help. What won’t help is making excuses and focusing on the past.
Reconciliation isn’t easy. The original conflict may be forgotten, but the resulting destruction from that conflict may be difficult to rebuild. What ultimately results from reconciliation is a new beginning and a relationship that may be stronger than before.
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“It is not ‘forgive and forget’ as if nothing wrong had ever happened, but ‘forgive and go forward,’ building on the mistakes of the past and the energy generated by reconciliation to create a new future.” –
Alan Paton (author and anti-apartheid activist)