A popular fast food organization used a phrase in an advertising jingle “have it your way” to emphasize to its American customers that they could expect their individual tastes in food to be served up, just the way “you” like it. Another line in the jingle goes like this; “special orders don’t upset us”. The implication in the jingle is that if our individual expectations are not met by one producer, we could experience satisfaction elsewhere, ad infinitum.

We Americans have grown to expect to have it our way; whether it is hamburgers, religious affiliation, political party, or the neighborhood in which we live. However, when having it “my” way results in “you” not having it your way (a win-lose situation) there proceeds disunity, unsettledness; and often anger, incivility, a clamoring for unilateral power (dominance), and legal intervention. One need not look far to see the results of have-it-your-way.

Just this morning, I read a blog entry on the MIT Community Innovator’s Lab: “Melt your snow anger. Sit down with the enemy”. In her entry, Christina Ruhfel tells the story of her husband’s hard work to shovel snow off of their family car as well as that of a neighbor: a seemingly nice gesture of neighborliness. However, shortly thereafter, the Ruhfels were confronted by an angry, uncivil neighbor that, while banging on the Ruhfel’s front door, insisted the snow was not shoveled into the correct place. In other words, the noble and altruistic motivations of her husband, shoveling snow onto the street where a plow could take it away, did not meet the demanding “have it my way” perspective of their neighbor. The neighbor was upset and, probably without consideration for Mr. Ruhfel’s intentions and labor, a meltdown ensued.

Yet, justice was served. Christina Ruhfel makes a wonderful observation that she connects with President Obama’s recent State of the Union address: changing our culture of incivility and domination (unilateral power-over others), requires unity (relational power-with others) while thinking globally and acting locally. The real glimmer of hope in the Ruhfel’s situation is this: Christina and her husband proactively took matters into their own hands by seeking relationships and power “with” others to create Polite People for Peace.  Perhaps this is the best way to “have it our way”.