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The 18th Camel - there is always a solution



There's an ancient proverb which goes something like this:

A father bequeathed 17 camels to his three sons. When the father died, his sons read the will which stated that the eldest son should get half of the total camels; the middle son should get one-third and the youngest son should be given one-ninth. As it was not possible to divide 17 by 2, 3 or 9 the three sons started to argue with each other. However they tried, they could not resolve the issue so they decided to visit a wise man. The wise man read the will patiently. After giving the matter due consideration, the wise man added one of his own camels to the 17 bequeathed camels. Now there were 18 camels. Then the wise man started to distribute the camels according to the will:

Half of 18 = 9 so he gave the eldest son 9 camels.

One-third of 18 = 6 so he gave the middle son 6 camels.

One-ninth of 18 = 2 so he gave the youngest son 2 camels.

9 + 6 + 2 = 17 and this left one camel which the wise man took back.

Once we can find the "18th camel" the problem is resolved. It is not always easy but, to reach a solution, the first step is to believe there is a solution. If we think there is no solution, we generally won’t be able to find one.

I love this proverb for its simplicity. We, as mediators, should go into all mediations with a positive attitude believing we can help resolve the issue(s). Otherwise, why are we taking them on? At the mediation stage, the parties clearly haven't been able to come to an agreement but they are willing to try and resolve things to avoid litigation. They must, therefore, believe a resolution is possible, even if only very slim. Mediators are there to try and unravel the knots and, pardon the pun, but where there's a will there's usually a way......


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