11/11/2019 Part 113 Claire’s Story: Mrs. Carson goes to Lisa’s house

By   A. Hosack,  P. Berman, K. Hecht

You can do this. Know on the door! You been friends for years! Lisa will let you in!!

Mrs. Carson was outside of Lisa’s house. She’d walked down the street with a firm step. But as she got closer she began to remember the look on Lisa’s face when she’d met her at the party and her steps began to slow down. Here she was now standing so close but so far from the front door.

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Mrs. Carson was feeling frozen between wanting to go up the walkway and….run away. No, she would not run from one of her oldest friends! She pushed herself to walk to the door, and after a brief pause from a brief anxiety attack, she knocked firmly on the door.

The door opened after a few minutes and there was Lisa looking stonily out at her. “Can I come in?” Mrs. Carson asked in a soft tone. “Why are you here,” Lisa responded angrily. “Lisa please let me in. Our conversation yesterday left me feeling very uncomfortable,” Mrs. Carson continued in a soft tone. “I’m not going to take back a single word. I meant everything that I said,” Lisa almost looked gleeful.

That look on her face. She seems to want me to feel hurt! I can do this, stay calm.

“Lisa,” Mrs. Carson said, “we’ve been friends for years. Aren’t you going to invite me in so we can sit in your living room and talk like we’ve done so many times before?” Lisa was surprised. She had expected to be slamming her front door and Mrs. Carson’s face. But looking at that very familiar face standing out on her porch she just automatically took few steps backward and opened her door wider. Mrs. Carson came in went over to the closet and hung her coat up. Lisa watched her thinking about how odd it was that she just intentionally been extremely rude and yet Mrs. Carson was quietly hanging her coat up.

What should I say firs?. Should I justify what I said yesterday.

Mrs. Carson was sitting in a chair in the very familiar living room. Lisa had sat down on the coach opposite her. She didn’t know what to say. She looked around wildly searching for an idea. She noticed that the picture of Lisa’s son and daughter-in-law had been taken down. There was just a blank spot on the wall where it had been. Something was wrong. “Lisa, I’ve always loved your living room. You’ve always had such a great artistic sense that I’ve often envied. I tried to make things match as beautifully as you do at my house, but it never quite works out,” Mrs. Carson said looking around.

“You didn’t come here to talk about my artistic sense,” Lisa said sarcastically.” (1-minute pause while Mrs. Carson takes a deep breath) No, I didn’t. But you have hurt my feelings by the way you’re talking to me and I was trying to remind myself of all the reasons I have valued you as a friend.”

Suddenly, Lisa felt very ashamed for the way she’d been talking to Mrs. Carson. She should apologize but there was so much anger in her heart she just couldn’t get the words out. The situation wasn’t easy for Mrs. Carson either, but she had kept her temper reined in despite Lisa’s constant provocation.

Having to learn how to deal with Claire’s meltdowns and Davy’s naughtiness had made her a more patient woman than she was when she raised her own children. “Lisa, I don’t know want to talk about first. What you said to me yesterday, or why that beautiful picture of Brian and his wife is no longer on your wall,” Mrs. Carson said softly. Lisa turned to look back at her wall of family pictures. After a moment of stony silence, she looked down at her lap and seemed to sag into the chair.

“We didn’t know about it until recently,” Lisa said bitterly “or we would’ve done something to help. That wife of his had been having an affair for years. When he found out two weeks ago, she wouldn’t even tell him if their four-year-old son was his or not. She packed up her clothes and their son and walked out the door. Our Brian tried to kill himself with his hand gun. A neighbor heard the shot and called the police. Brian has been in intensive care since then.”

What can I say? What could help? Nothing. There is nothing to say.

No words could express what Mrs. Carson was feeling. She came over to Lisa and sat right next to her on the couch and patted her hand, “I am so sorry Lisa. Your Brian is a wonderful man. I know that. I watched him grow up!” Mrs. Carson said earnestly.  Lisa turned her face away and began to cry. “Lisa, you don’t have to turn away from me. I feel like I have a crack in my heart to hear about your family’s suffering.” Lisa turned back to Mrs. Carson and saw her genuine look of pain.

“What am I going to do? They say he will live despite…he put the gun in his mouth and shot himself! How can I help my Brian?”(2-minute silence where Mrs. Carson just hold’s Lisa’s hand. “I don’t know Lisa, but as soon as he leaves intensive care, why don’t we just visit him and treat him with love. That might be a start,” Mrs. Carson suggested.

“I would like that. (1-minute pause) My husband tells me he won’t go. Brian just needs to be a man. What does that even mean,” Lisa  sobbed. “Lisa, you know he’s always had a hard time dealing with strong feelings. I’m sure he’s just as scared about losing Brian as you are. We will go first. When we get back maybe, you just tell him a little bit about what happened. He’ll come around, you know he always does.”

Mrs. Carson wanted to change Lisa’s opinion of foster children. That is why she had come to Lisa’s house. It isn’t easy to change someone’s opinion. Mrs. Carson had taken two steps, recommended by Megan Phelps-Roper. She had assumed there was some understandable reason for what Lisa had said to her. She had stayed calm through Lisa’s anger and had discovered that all the unpleasantness had occurred within a context of tragedy. This context screamed out to be talked through first.

To read steps to read all the steps to talking to someone about something you disagree with go to:

https://ideas.ted.com/4-tips-for-talking-to-people-you-disagree-with/

To listen to Ms. Phelps-Roper talk about how she stepped away from a childhood built on hate speech, to an adult commitment to work against it go to:

https://www.ted.com/talks/megan_phelps_roper_i_grew_up_in_the_westboro_baptist_church_here_s_why_i_left

11/8/2019 Part 112 Claire’s story: Who is taking care of who?

By   K. Hecht, A. Hosack & P. Berman

“It’s so cold out here Mr. Carson we have to walk a little faster or I will be too cold!” Davy said picking up his pace and dragging dog alone with him on a lease. Up a head, he suddenly saw Mr. Dugan coming towards them from the opposite direction. He began to jump up and down, “Mr. Carson, there is Mr. Dugan. He must have taken a walk! Let’s meet him half way. Hurry, hurry!” Davy’s excitement was transmitted to the dog as they began running towards Mr. Dugan; Mr. Carson was lagging further and further behind.

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“Hello, hello, hello Mr. Dugan we were just coming to look for you,” Davy said jumping up and down while the dog was running circles around him – the dog leash was becoming tangled up in Davy’s legs.

“Careful Davy,” Mr. Dugan said sternly, “that dog is going to cause you to fall down and get hurt.” “No, no, no it’s a really good dog Mr. Dugan. He is my friend. I fall down all the time and I just get a few bumps and bruises.” Mr. Carson was finally coming up from behind. “Hello, Mr. Dugan. I see you already met our new dog.”

“Didn’t I see your girl put on notice of dog for sale in the newspaper? What’s wrong with the dog that you want to get rid of it?” Mr. Dugan asked. Now the Davy had calmed down, so had the dog. It was looking carefully at Mr. Dugan and now was walking slowly closer to him. Mr. Dugan was very familiar with how to handle dogs. He bent down a little bit closer to the dog and put out his hand. Dog came over and was sniffing away first at Mr. Dugan’s hand and then his right pocket.

“That’s a smart dog, he can tell I have a sandwich in my pocket.” Turning to the dog he said sternly but quietly, “that sandwich is for me, now you go over here where I can see you and stay away from it,” Mr. Dugan said pointing to a spot a little further away from his pocket. The dog seemed to understand and did what he was told.

“There is nothing wrong with the dog. Claire found him walking home from the bus and he was quite neglected, skinny and thirsty. We’ve been taking care of him until he was healthy enough for us to find him a good home.”

“I really want to keep dog”, Davy said looking sad but then, looked at Mr. Dugan and said, “everyone says they can’t take care of me and the dog and so the dog has to go. But we are only giving him to a good home where I know the person understands dogs (1-minute pause).”

“Why are you calling him dog. Doesn’t he deserve a name?” Mr. Dugan asked. “My mom thinks if I name him, I will have even more trouble seeing him go away. (1-minute pause where Davy knees down and hugs the dog to him) I’m going to be sad even though I still call him dog. But I understand, that I can’t keep.”

The dog was licking Davy on the face which was very ticklish. Davy began to laugh. “I see that dog really knows how to cheer you up,” Mr. Dugan said. “Yes, dog loves me,” Davy said scratching dog’s head. “He is a good dog Mr. Dugan,” Mr. Carson said, “we just budgeted it out with the shots and the vet’ s visits and the money just isn’t there for a dog.” “I hate budgets,” Davy said looking up at Mr. Dugan, “but mommy took me to the store to buy food for this week and added it all up on a calculator to show me how there was no money left over for dog food. But we bought the dog food by putting back all the ice cream, and all the meat.”

“I can live without that ice cream- though it makes my tummy sad. Our family needs the meat, (Davy sighs) but I would give it up for dog. But I understand we can’t give up meat. I needed meat to get bigger and Mr. Carson needs it for his blood, (Davy was looking strangely at Mr. Carson) but I can’t quite understand why.”

Mr. Dugan was looking Davy and the dog over. “You’re got a smart boy there Carson, to understand budgets at his age. I’ve had dogs before and you’re right it takes a good bit of money and sometimes it can mean a sacrifice to keep them,” Mr. Carson turned to the dog who was sitting patiently, wagging his tail at Mr. Dugan and said, “I’m pretty amazed how this dog is listening to you Mr. Dugan.” “I have had a lot of experience with dogs. Come on over here dog,” he said. The dog came over and began licking Mr. Dugan’s hand again. “Do you want to come and live with me dog? Of course, I could only have you if Davy here would walk you once a day because I do have bad arthritis,” Mr. Dugan said looking over at Davy. “Can I please Mr. Carson. If I could walk dog once a day it would be like he was still my friend even though he didn’t live at our house.”

“You’ll have to be a good responsible neighbor Davy. If you promise to take him for walks, you need to go over and do it even if it’s raining even if it’s cold,” Mr. Carson said seriously. “I’ll do my best, but if I forget will you remind me Mr. Carson?” “That sounds like a good plan Davy.”

“I think I’ll call you buddy,” Mr. Dugan said to the dog. “It’s a good name for you because you are Davy’s buddy and you’re going to be mine.”

Dog has a home and a name now. Mr. Dugan is lonely, and the dog is going to give him something important to do- caring for a living being that will give him affection and companionship in return.

It isn’t easy to take good care of a dog. Pets may find it isn’t that easy caring for their owner.

Service dogs can play a role in saving the lives of people with diabetes, seizures, and other serious health problems. They have to receive extensive training to meet the needs of their specific owner. To read about them go to:

https://share.america.gov/service-dogs-save-lives/

11/6/2019 Part 111 Claire’s story: Mrs. Carson’s feelings are hurt

By   P. Berman, K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

I don’t know what to do. But I do know I don’t want Claire to hear about this.

Mrs. Carson went in search of her husband as soon as she got home. She wanted to tell him about the problem she experienced, with Lisa and get his advice about what to do. His immediate reaction was to get very angry about what Lisa had said. But, after sitting with her for a while, just being together on the couch in the living room, he said to her, “let’s act on our own advice to Claire. We’re always telling her that when she doesn’t know what to do, she should to do some research and get more ideas. Let’s do this together,” he said giving her hug.

Mr. Carson got out their computer and typed in, “how to respectfully disagree with others.” They found an article written by Marisa Fasciano (March 2, 2015) for the Teaching Tolerance Magazine. As they read through the article, they wondered if bringing Claire and Davy into their home could have triggered some things from Lisa’s history that they didn’t know. The article talked about how strong emotional reactions usually came with context. Working through the controversial topics required both sides to try and understand each other’s background “context”.

Is there something about Lisa’s point of view I don’t understand yet? Is she really worried about me?

“What do you think,” Mr. Carson said after they both finished reading the article. “I don’t know much about Lisa’s background when it really comes down to it. We just helped drive each other’s kids around to different activities. We never really talked about problems- except maybe when the kids were sick.” “Did you notice anything changing between you when Claire first came,” Mr. Carson asked.

“She was helping take care of her brother who had Alzheimer’s. I don’t think things were going well at the nursing home where he was living; his wife couldn’t handle caring for his basic needs once his illness had really progressed.  I guess she began spending more and more time at the nursing home the same time I began to spend more time with Claire and Davy,” Mrs. Carson said.

“It seems like you and Lisa really got out of touch,” Mr. Carson said. “Yes, we did get pulled in opposite directions,” Mrs. Carson said, “she was spending all of her time at the Nursing home and I guess I was spending all my time here (1-minute silence). I guess I need to meet with Lisa and try to listen to what she has to say.  I need to find out if this is more about her being under a lot of stress or if she really believes Claire was born to be bad.” Mr. Carson went red, “We went through some scary times with Larry. I don’t remember how much of that I told her husband Dan.”

“It’s so hard to remember what our life was like before Claire and Davy came into our lives,” Mrs. Carson said, “But, I do remember that before we learned about and from her, I always tried to keep our kids from hanging out with those children who live across time in the trailer court. I don’t think I consciously thought that those kids were bad…. but they weren’t polite when I saw them at school, and they seemed to always be in trouble.” Mr. Carson said dejectedly, “I know I told our kids a few times at the park when they were misbehaving that they needed to stop acting like… trailer trash”

Mrs. Carson patted his hand and said, “Honey, we have both made some big mistakes. We can’t go back and change how we judged those kids without really understanding who they were. Maybe they were doing just fine. Maybe they needed our help, but we didn’t see it. We can’t know.” Mr. Carson smiled at her, “So, are you going to call Lisa now?”

Mrs. Carson looked down at her hands. “I should. I know that but what should I say. I know it’s going to be hard, she sounded so mad and you know….I have always struggled with talking to people who were mad at me. (1-minute pause)  Maybe you could…. practice with me what I should say.”

Mr. Carson started laughing and gasped out, “in some ways it’s funny that Lisa thinks we’ve joined a cult. If we have it should be called the cult of practice, practice, practice skills you need to learn.” Mrs. Carson began laughing too and Claire and Davy came in from a play date at the park in time to hear them both.

Smiling, Davy interrupted the laughter with, “Mr. Carson, I noticed our neighbor sitting on the porch looking really sad,” Davy said. Maybe we should visit with our dog. He’s so cute and goofy it might make Mr. Dugan feel better to play with him.” “I think this is a great idea Davy, keep your coat on and give me a minute to get on mine. We will take the dog for a walk and visit Mr. Dugan.” The dog had been laying on the floor. But somehow, it knew it was being talked about. He jumped up on Davy’s legs and looked at him so pleadingly.

“Mr. Carson, the dog really likes this idea!”

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Mr. Carson, Davy, and the dog were getting ready to take a walk over to the neighbors. Claire was going upstairs to wash up; taking Davy to the park always ended up with her getting very dirty from his antics.

Mrs. Carson was sitting at the kitchen table alone with her thoughts and wondering what was going on with Lisa. She was preparing herself for making that phone call – practicing what she might say in her head. This was not going to be easy for her.

Does Lisa need help? Does she hold negative stereotypes about foster kids?

It is hard to change your view of something unless you learn more about it and recognize that you might not have known all the important information you needed to make a fair judgement. To read more about what different forms of abuse are and how children may react to them go to:

https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parenting_CAN.pdf

11/4/2019 Part 110 Claire’s story: Mrs. Carson is hurt

By   A. Hosack, &   P. Berman, K. Hecht

People noticed my editorial! Sarah read my editorial and she is telling people about it!

Mrs. Carson was at a party for one of her friend’s birthdays. Everything started out so wonderfully. She hugged her friend Sara and wished her a happy birthday. Sara congratulated her on having her editorial published in the newspaper. She announced to everyone that they now had a famous author as a friend. Mrs. Carson started to laugh with pleasure until she noticed that her neighbor Lisa was looking very serious.

Just a year ago, Mrs. Carson might not have given Lisa’s nonverbal signs of distress, a second though; she just wouldn’t have realized they might mean something important. But, she had learned a lot about how to notice when someone was distressed, since Claire first moved into her house with her baby. She had gained so much that day, a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of worries, but so much love and such a feeling of having made a difference to somebody.

Mrs. Carson came over to Lisa and reached out to touch her hand whispering, “are you all right?” Lisa withdrew her hand angrily. She had been stunned when she first noticed the editorial Mrs. Carson had written. It was happening again. Everything was about that Claire. Ever since Claire and her baby had moved in, Mrs. Carson was so busy she barely spent a moment with Lisa. It used to be a weekly event that they go to the grocery store together. They usually exchange at least one phone call a day.

That scheming Claire was exploiting her friend – who was blind to the whole thing. Reading the editorial had just pushed her over the edge. It was like the Carsons had joined some kind of a cult; everything was about that Claire, everyone else had become invisible. Lisa’s husband was on the church board, she had heard all about Mr. Carson’s attempts to get them to spend church money on Head Start; one of those social programs that was just a waste of everybody’s tax dollars. Even the church’s money was supposed to go to something to help that Claire.

Somebody needed to do something to straighten the Carsons out. Mrs. Carson was supposed to be her friend. Well, she could just listen to somethings her friend was thinking about her. “I read your editorial and it was just like everything else you have been saying these past few years. What makes you think you can believe anything that girl Claire says to you? She’s got you hypnotized or something. You’re always bringing up great things that she’s done. Let’s face it, she’s bad, she was born bad. You are spending all the money you need for your own retirement on that girl and her kid and before you know it, she’ll be gone leaving you with nothing.”

Lisa can’t really mean this? Can she? Why would she say such terrible things?

Mrs. Carson was stunned into silence by Lisa’s words. She was just standing there staring at Lisa, and then Lisa just snorted and walked away. Mrs. Carson felt very strange. She went into the bathroom where she could wash her face and cold water. She looked at herself in the mirror but saw the same person she thought she’d always been. Lisa was….she didn’t know what. Claire wasn’t bad.

A cult? What could Lisa be thinking?

Mrs. Carson hadn’t realized how long she been in the bathroom alone with her thoughts until somebody knocked on the door. “Just one more minute now and I will be out,” Mrs. Carson said trying to sound happy. She really wanted to go home but she didn’t want to spoil her friend Sara’s birthday.

She had time to work this out. When the party was over, she would work it out with Mr. Carson. As she came back into the living room, she was just in time to hear Lisa telling everyone that she had to go home because she was suddenly feeling very sick.  No one noticed the stunned look on Mrs. Carson’s face.

Lisa is so angry with me she is leaving the party. Is this my fault somehow?

“Are you all right?” Sara said coming over to stand next to her friend. Not wanting to spoil her friend’s birthday, Mrs. Carson just said, “I’m fine, just a little tired. So, tell me all about your plans for this special day?” Sara took Mrs. Carson’s words at face value. She began to tell her, and everyone else, that her children were coming up to visit for dinner and how excited she was to see her grandchildren. She brought out the cake and said, “I refuse to feel guilty, we are going to eat this cake now and then my son is bringing another one for dinner!” Everyone laughed and took a plate while Sarah handed out slices.

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I need to stop thinking about Lisa now. Cake, I need to eat this cake and support Sara.

Mrs. Carson wanted to focus her attention on helping Sara have a wonderful birthday party. But her mind just kept coming back to Lisa and her very angry face. Mrs. Carson had raised her children alongside Lisa’s. She had thought they knew each other well. Why was Lisa so against Claire? Had she unintentionally offended Lisa by talking more about Claire and paying less attention to her as a friend?

Why would my letter have made Lisa so angry? Was that just an excuse? Is it really something else?

These last few years with a bigger family had taken up a lot of her time. She had spent less time with her friends than she used to.  Mrs. Carson realized she had changed, not because she had joined a cult, but because she had learned so much from trying to help Claire. She would never have written to the newspaper, even last year. She had slowly come to the idea. She had come to realize how many people like Claire were out there but not getting help. While Mrs. Carson hadn’t expected everyone to share her opinions, it never occurred to her that someone would have found it offensive in some way. She was especially shocked that somehow her letter could’ve offended a friend. What was going on??

Have you ever gotten an unexpected reaction from someone you cared about? It could be because of different opinions on how to raise children. It could be because of differences of opinion about politics?

What might you do?

The Southern Poverty Law Center provides some examples for how to talk through disagreements with others about serious topics. To read about it go to:

https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/agree-to-respectfully-disagree

11/01/2019 Part 109 Claire’s story: Martin is struggling with a decision

By      A. Hosack  P. Berman & K. Hecht, 

Move Larry move don’t just lie there. This is your own fault. Why couldn’t you do what you were told? 

Martin was back at his post staring at Larry through the window of the intensive care unit. He was lost in thought, this time full of anger. He had warned Larry over and over the last night they were in prison about what was expected once they got to Philadelphia. There was nothing more he could have done to prepare him for life with the gang on the outside. Larry had been the screw up – not him! 

“He’s here he’s here. I told you daddy that he be here come on hurry up.” Amelia was trying to drag her dad as he laughed and did his best to wheel his chair faster. Shocked out of his internal rage, Martin looked down the hall and couldn’t help but start laughing. Ted was wearing some kind of crazy something on his head that looked like it was made from pipe cleaners. 

“Mister, Mister!!! Do you see the hat I made for my daddy last night? I made it myself to keep his head warm.” Amelia twirled over to him and looked up at him with a big smile. Ted arrived and apologized, “I’m so sorry that my daughter was yelling at you from down the hall. She’s gotten a little overexcited today.” 

“It’s my dad’s birthday and we had cake and ice cream would you like a piece?” Amelia said all on one breath. Martin could barely speak for laughing. He looked at Ted and when words could come out said, “She’s not bothering me at all. She looks about the same age as my daughter.” This led Amelia to begin tugging at Martin’s shirt saying, “Is your daughter here! Would she like to play? We have cake!!”  

Blood rushed to Martin’s face. Thinking about his daughter for a moment made him feel deeply ashamed; what would she think if she knew that her dad was involved in attempted murdered? Looking down into her eyes, Martin said softly, “she can‘t play with you today. She’s hours away from here.” Amelia looked down so dejectedly that Martin shared a little more. “I am sure she would want cake, if she was here. Would you like to see her picture?” Amelia began to jump up and down in excitement as Martin removed a photo from his wallet and showed her his daughter 

“What’s her name, what’s her name Her dress is so pretty.” “Now, Amelia, give this gentleman a chance,” Ted said, smiling down at her. “Here name is Destiny,” Martin said with pride. I have three sons and this little ball of fire.” 

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“She looks fun daddy; can we go over to their house and play?” Ignoring his daughter, Ted smiled up at Martin and said, “she looks like a wonderful girl.” Martin smiled back but then shame quickly returned and he said as he walked off, “Sorry, I have got to go.” He almost ran down the hall, not giving them a chance to say anything else. 

I almost killed Larry. I almost killed Amelia’s dad. Selling drugs is one thing but… Can Jesus ever forgive me for what I did to Larry?  

His sweet daughter Destiny was in church with her mother right about now. What would she think about her dad if she knew? He was destined for Hell. No praying of his wife’s would stop that. He was lost for sure. 

Martin doesn’t want to be a killer. What would he have wanted if given more guidance? 

Martin was born into poverty with a single mom desperately trying to care for four children on the income she made running a cash register part-time at the local grocery store. As she got further and further behind on the bills, her oldest son, just 10, turned to the local gang for help.  

Might you want to offer a better form of help to poor children faced with tough choices? 

A political advocacy step would be to support bills that are intended to help end poverty. One bill currently under consideration is H.R. 4436: National Poverty Research Center Authorization Act. This act would financially support Poverty Centers run by institutions of higher education. These centers help support programming to end poverty in their communities.  

There is a website below that would help you learn more about this bill. If you support it, you would click on the blue tab at the top that says, “Call or write a letter to your representative.” If you click on this, it will show you who your senators and representatives are. Since this is a house bill, you would click on your representative (s). For mine, I had to fill out a brief demographic form to prove I was a member of his district before a pop-up menu to write a letter appeared. Go to the website below if you would like to consider supporting this bill. The letter I sent is also below, feel free to use it for your own email or phone call if you decide to take action. 

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr4436 

Dear Representative Thompson,  

Please support H.R. 4436. It would provide funding so that many research centers could be established around the country to help end poverty in their communities. Poor children have more difficulties learning in school, are less safe on their streets, and often spend too much time alone as their parents work long hours trying to earn enough money to feed them and keep them housed.  

We have approximately 7 million people in prison in the USA (https://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=kfdetail&iid=487) Estimates are that it costs $182 million dollars to do so (https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/money.html).  Please consider spending this money on programs that could end the need for crime to support families and drugs and alcohol to dampen the pain and unnecessary suffering caused by living in poverty.   

Imagine what a legacy that would give you as a congressman to be listed in history as helping to build a strong USA through supporting families, rather than supporting incarceration. 

Sincerely yours, 

Pearl Berman, Ph.D. 

 

 

10/30/2019 Part 109 Claire’s story: Martin is torn by guilt

By    K. Hecht,  A. Hosack, &   P. Berman 

I had to do it. My family had to come first. 

Martin had turned Larry into the gang without hesitation; he had too, he was likely being watched, everyone watched everyone else in the gang. Standing at the window, seeing all the tubes coming out of Larry, watching him in silence; Martin had literally begun shakingIt had been three days without Martin seeing Larry make a single move, no matter how small. Larry remained unconscious and unnaturally still.  

Could it be all the drugs they are pumping into him? Larry looks like he’s already dead. 

Martin felt guilt was flowing through his body rather than blood. He was sure it would have been less painful to have seen Larry die in that accident. Immediate death didn’t involve the type of suffering Larry might be experiencing while no one around him could notice.  

He looks like a corpse on the outside, but could he feel the pain of all his broken limbs? 

Martin had been sleeping in the car and following the gang’s instructions to check on Larry every day. They didn’t want him waking up. Martin had tried to overhear as much of what the doctors and nurses had been saying about Larry as he could. They were concerned but hadn’t given up hope Larry would wake up; his vitals had been improving – whatever that meantHe had to report back to the gang every night.  

The more time Martin spent alone watching Larry, the more memories of their time together punished him from within.  Prison had been so boring except for the times they had swapped stories. They had shared some many stories – some were probably truer than others. Some of Larry’s sex stories had to be made up; Martin was almost positive about that. They were certainly making up some of the stories they told each other about the guards’ love lives. Hanging out in the laundry room- safe from surveillance for a little while, they had laughed their heads off. Talking to Larry was more fun than talking to other gang members. Their stories were all about seeking revenge, once they got out. 

Martin was so intent on staring through the window, that he didn’t realize he had a little girl standing next to him who was staring up at him. “Mr., what’s wrong with you? Why are you shaking?” 

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Martin looked down into the green eyes of a little girl, around the same age as his youngest. She was staring at him with that wide-eyed look, young kids often had. No sound was coming out of his mouth as he just looked carefully at her. Ted rolled up in his wheel chair and took her hand, “Amelia, you know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers.: Martin looked down at him in sudden anger, maybe this guy didn’t want his White kid talking to a Black man. Ted saw the anger in Martin’s eyes, “I meant no offense mister; I’m just trying to teach her to behave in public places.”  

Martin was surprised by this respectful form of address. The guy was in a wheelchair and wearing hospital robes. No threat here at all. “I don’t mind her,” Martin said with a small smile. Ted smiled back and said, “we are here visiting my friend Larry. We were in a car accident together a few days ago; he wasn’t as lucky as me. Martin’s smile was wiped off his face. Here he was standing next to that sweet little girl and he might have caused her dad’s death. “Mister, you are looking strange again are you okay?” Amelia said shaking his hand back and forth. “I’m fine sweetheart. I guess I’m tired and should go take a nap.” “That’s silly mister, only little kids take naps.”  

Martin leaned down to Amelia’s eye level, “You are a very nice girl to be worried about me.” “I am learning how to be kind at school from my mommy,” Amelia said, twirling around in circles. Martin looked up at Ted in surprise. “My wife teaches at the Boys and Girls Club in town. Amelia sits with her while she teaches; she is learning a lot, just from hearing what the older kids are talking about,” Ted said smiling. 

“Kids go to a club to talk about being kind?” Martin said. “It’s a club with lots of after school programs. Our neighborhood has lost most of its jobs. Many of the kids in our neighborhood were getting into a lot of trouble after school because their folks are working in there alone. The club opened last summer. It has been a safe place for kids to come after school; there are sports programs, they can work on their homework and get help, and my wife helps with programs that talk about building relationships that don’t hurt people.”  

I wish my kids could go to a club like that. My oldest is already getting into fights at school. I don’t want him to turn out like me. 

Amelia has been watching Martin closely. She’s had always been a very curious child. She’s was the youngest child in Ted’s family, and she was always on the outside a little, with her brothers preferring to exclude her from their games. This gave her a lot of time to watch people and notice their faces. She had noticed that Martin’s face often looked like he was sad or worried. His face had gone white again. She walked over to him and hugged him around the knees, “it’s going to be okay Mr. this is a good hospital.” 

Martin looked down at her and smiled. She’d shown more concern for his welfare in the last few minutes than others had shown in the last year. He spent so much time doing gang work that his kids often treated him more like some stranger who came in and out of the apartment for visits than like someone to pay attention to.  

I want my sweet Destiny to be kind like Amelia. Why isn’t there a club like hers in our neighborhood? 

Ted was getting uneasy that Amelia was getting into a stranger’s business. He called over to her and said, “Amelia it is time for us to go back to my room, your mom went down to the cafeteria to bring up lunch for us.” She smiled up at her dad, “I’m hungry daddy.” “I know you are sweetheart,” Ted said smiling 

“I hope whoever you are visiting recovers soon,” Ted said as he wheeled his chair with one hand and held Amelia’s with the other.  As they disappeared down the corridor, Martin’s thoughts were filled with self-hate. Ted was in a wheelchair because of him. Larry might die and if he didn’t… The gang would expect them to do something about it – and it wouldn’t be a kind something. 

Martin has caused serious harm to Ted and Larry. Was he born to be bad? 

Martin grew up with all the men in his family, spending most of their time in prison. He barely knew his dad who had been sent away for life. His older brothers were in the gang long before he started kindergarten. To others they might have been drug dealers, but to his family they provided the money to pay the rent, get food, and get clothing. When his two older brothers were both sent away in prison, Martin was faced with the choice of following them into the gang or letting his mom and younger brothers become homeless. 

Growing up in poverty, had limited Martin’s ideas of what choices were available in life. While he had never wanted to end up in prison like his brothers, dad and uncles, wherever he looked he saw brick walls. Some poor children have been luckier than Martin because the door of a Boys and Girls Club of America was wide open for them. These clubs provide many different services to kids, all designed to provide them with a safe place to be, safe mentors to work with, and the ability to succeed in life. 

There aren’t enough of these clubs for all the poor children who could benefit from them. Consider being a personal advocacy and donating money or time to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America at: https://www.bgca.org 
 

10/28/2019 Part 108 Claire’s Story: Ted and Larry are trapped in the car

By          P. Berman & K. Hecht, & A. Hosack 

It’s my fault he was driving. I was afraid to. Have I killed him? 

Ted is caught in the passenger seat of the bus. He can’t get out, but he doesn’t care. He can’t take his eyes off of Larry; his body is who is crumpled against a broken steering wheel – covered in blood. Ted hears noises outside of the car but can’t identify them. He needs to help Larry. What should he do? He gently reaches over and shakes Larry’s shoulder, “Larry can you hear me?” There was no answer. Time passes, Ted periodically just shakes Larry’s shoulder trying to see a sign that Larry is still alive. Almost past hope, Ted hears a huge wrenching sound – the top of the bus is gone, lifted off by a giant claw. Ted can see police cars, a fire engine, and an ambulance. They are putting their arms around Ted.  

“Leave me here, save Larry,” Ted tries to scream as they carefully lift him out and transfer him to the ambulance; the scream was in Ted’s head  no sound had come out. In the ambulance, whatever they attached him to a bag of clear fluid and in an instant – he was asleep. 

It takes longer to get Larry out. There’s a lot of metal of the car holding him in that has to be removed first. As soon as they can, they take his pulse; Larry is still alive. He only survived this accident because Emergency medical technicians (EMT) rushed into a highly dangerous situation in order to save him. Knowing that the vehicle crushed around Larry and Ted could explode at any moment, they had still calmly used hydraulic equipment to pull parts of the car apart so that they could lift the two men out. 

Could you do this? Could you rush in and work calmly to save another life while yours was in jeopardy? 

Larry wasn’t dead but his life was in severe jeopardy. Police officers and firemen worked together to extricate him from an almost demolished vehicle, and this teamwork gave him a chance to live. As Larry’s damaged body was finally lifted out of the bus the rushing continued, this time rushing to get him into an ambulance. As the vehicle was driven as quickly as possible to the hospital, the Emergency Technician did a quick check of Larry’s condition. His arms and legs were broken, and he had a severe concussion and his heart was barely beating.  In the ambulance, life and death decisions were made by this paramedic who managed to keep Larry on the right side of life until he could be rushed into emergency surgery.  

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Larry survived 10 hours of surgery to be released directly into intensive care. In a wheelchair, Ted is staring at Larry through a glass window – he is hooked up tomany different machines. The nurses and doctors must carefully monitor his response to surgery, so they are in and out frequently. He is never alone. There is always one monk keeping vigil and praying for his recovery. Martin has also been watching. He calls the gang to give them an update. All he could say was that Larry had not regained consciousness yet and was never alone. 

If Larry lives, will he go back to the monastery? Will the gang make another attempt to kill him?  

Serious illness and accidents sometimes lead people to re-evaluate the choices they were making in life. Larry had been raised to believe that his choices were confined to living a life on the edge of society, disrespected by everyone and having to use violence to surviveAll his courage, physical strength and endurance had supported his staying alive, both in and out of prison.  If Larry had grown up in a different family, these strengths could have made him a valuable member of a police unit, squad of firefighters, or Emergency Medical Technician. These choices would have made him a respected and valued member of society. 

Do you know anyone who has considered becoming an EMT?  

To read more about the training required to become one go to: 

https://www.ems1.com/careers/articles/becoming-an-ambulance-technician-8aZm4QE4Oq3TWDwK/ 

10/25/2019 Part 107 Claire’s Story: The accident

By          P. Berman & K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

 

Drive the bus? Is that all? 

Larry walked slowly out of the Abbot’s room, in a daze about what was really going on. Surely, the Abbot would want more from him than just to drive the bus to be fixed. Was this for real? Did he understand what was going on?

Larry felt safe at the monastery, but he often found himself in a state of confusion; He didn’t understand how things worked in a religious community. Nothing seemed to work as he expected it to. Even at the beginning things had changed quickly. First, he was just taking the bus to Cincinnati and then he was going to get off and disappear into the city. Seeing the gang car doggedly following him had changed that plan. Then, Larry planned to hide out at the monastery until the gang had forgotten all about him.

Was he just hiding out? Was he living? Could he be freely living for the first time in his life?

It had only been a few weeks. Still, bit by bit, Larry had shifted his entire viewpoint. Slowly but surely, he had been making a home for himself at the monastery- without realizing it. The next day, lighthearted, Larry and Ted got into the bus to drive it to the body shop so that it could finally receive the complete overhaul it needed. Larry was driving and Ted was giving directions when Martin caught sight of them.

Martin had been sitting outside the monastery for a week waiting for news of Larry. He was bored. Angry. Restless. He didn’t want to be the person who got Larry killed but he was not willing to save Larry at the expense of his own family. Martin was knocked out of his despairing thoughts by the site of the monastery bus pulling out into the driveway. This was the first sign of life that Martin had seen so he followed the bus as it wove its way through traffic until it finally pulled into a body shop.

Is Larry in that bus? Have I wasted my time? No, there he is.

Martin didn’t know if he should feel relieved or not. He was tired of his stakeout. But, seeing Larry meant it was time to take action. Martin called the gang and the plan was set in motion. It didn’t take long before a gang truck was parked alongside the alley that ran past the body shop. Martin’s job was to distract Larry as he drove the bus out of the body shop. He did it well. There was one instant, when Larry’s eyes had met his before the truck had bashed into Larry side of the bus and then driven away.

Martin was in shock. The bus was nothing but scrap now. Martin had thought the truck was just going to wedge the bus in. He had thought the plan was to kidnap Larry. Martin stared at the wreck on the street.

Could Larry still be alive? 

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Martin’s car became wedged into a huge traffic jam as fire trucks and police seem to arrive from out of nowhere. Martin was supposed to quickly disappear from the sight of the accident -but he had been in shock. Now, he could think again but he couldn’t get away without abandoning the car. He just sat where he was – tortured by thoughts of Larry’s mutilated body in the bus. He had brought Larry into the gang with the best of intentions. Why did Larry have to run? Sure, selling drugs to kids was a downer but still- he owed the gang.

Ted was unable to move a muscle. The metal of the car kept him immobile. He could see Larry out of the corner of his eye. It didn’t look good.

That should have been me. If I wasn’t such a coward, Larry wouldn’t have even been in the vehicle at all. I owe this guy my life.

The accident was not Ted’s fault. He didn’t know it, but it wasn’t even an accident. Larry’s injuries were intentional payback from the gang. However, Ted is showing signs of “survivor’s guilt. Have you ever blamed yourself for something that is not your fault?

Have you known anyone to punish themselves for something that they couldn’t have prevented?

To read about how you could recognize the warning signs of survivor’s guilt, and steps you could take to help yourself or someone else go to: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empowerment-diary/201801/what-everybody-should-know-about-survivors-guilt

10/23/2019 Part 106 Claire’s Story: Larry and the Abbot

By          P. Berman & K. Hecht, & A. Hosack

I like this. Could my life always be like this? Could I just stay here and never leave?

Larry wanted to stay at the monastery. Later this morning, Larry was going to meet with the Abbot for the first time. He was going to ask for permission to stay – he feared he be told he had to go. What did he have to offer the monks anyway? Larry was pacing around, doing nothing useful with his time when Ted arrived. Thankfully, Ted had asked him for help working on the bus; Larry knew, even if Ted didn’t, that this bus needed a major overhaul at a body shop and soon. However, he would do his best to help.

Larry always felt less edgy when he was helping Ted. While not much of a talker, Ted would periodically ask Larry’s opinion about something or ask for a tool that he couldn’t reach; they spent most of the time in companionable silence. On the farm, working with his father had always been an emotionally and physically grueling experience. Things never went smoothly. Tools always got broken. Blows for doing things wrong were constant.

To survive his family life, Larry had needed to be hypervigilant, always looking for warning signs that he needed to either escape or defend himself. In prison, he’d always been on the losing side of a fight until Martin got him accepted into the gang. However, being part of the gang didn’t bring him the kind of peace of mind that these monks seemed to find in each other’s society. Life with the gang had been full of warning signs that mistakes weren’t tolerated.  Larry saw many other men being beaten up or locked away and there was always this silence, this coercive control that involved no more than brief eye contact or small hand gestures that let Larry know violence was always just beneath the surface.

These past few weeks have been different. Ted never swore at him or threatened him with violence; He actually seemed to like having Larry around. Sometimes when they were working, Ted would tell Larry stories about his childhood. These were hard stories for Larry to understand. Ted appeared to have had parents like the fake ones in Christmas movies; the kind of parents who were always saying they loved him. Ted talked casually of how much they had even helped him succeed in school.

Could Ted be making the stories up? Was Ted saying these things just to impress Larry?

Everyone in his Ted’s family had been proud when he volunteered for military service. But, with each tour of duty, Ted had felt more and more withdrawn from the life he had grown up with. He had systematically pulled further and further away from a world that now had too much noise in it. They weren’t happy family noises anymore; something or other was always triggering memories of his deployments overseas and he couldn’t bear it.

Larry would have envied Ted’s family life if he had believed half of the stories he was told. Larry wondered if Ted was trying to convince himself that these lies were true. Afterall, if his childhood had been so great, why did he jump at every sudden noise and lose all the color in his face when the bus backfired? Larry hadn’t come to any conclusions about these stories, but still, he enjoyed hearing about them for some reason.

Everything went smoothly this morning; the bus was working again. Ted and Larry went into the kitchen and washed up in the sink. A few minutes later, one of the monks came to escort Larry to his meeting with the Abbot. The calmness of being with Ted disappeared. Larry was led by one of the monks to a small room he’d never seen before. It barely had any further in it beside the desk. Larry didn’t know if he should sit down in the chair opposite the desk or not.  Before he could ask the monk, the door was already closed behind him. Larry paced back and forth for a while.

I’m such an idiot. I don’t even know if I should sit down. The Abbot will never consider letting me stay here.

Larry didn’t know what the Abbot looked like. When Larry arrived, that fateful night driving the bus, the Abbot had been traveling. He hadn’t arrived back at the monastery until yesterday. Larry had begun to sweat. He kept drying his hands on his pants. Larry didn’t know why he was so nervous. All the monks had been very kind to him. There was no reason for him to expect the abbot to immediately kick him out.

Larry didn’t recognize his longing to have a home. He didn’t recognize how much he had come to value how kindly the monks treated him. Before Larry could work himself up further, the door opened again. A short elderly man came slowly in.

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Larry was surprised. The Abbot was wearing the same simple robes as all the other monks; the priest at his church had dressed much more richly. The abbot’s face was covered in the fine lines of advanced age. He smiled gently at Larry and said, “Good afternoon, my son. I understand that you need to contact your parole officer right away.” Larry turned white; how did the abbot know already? “You look confused; I am sorry if no one told you before. The priest of your church called me when you were on your way here on the bus. He explained all the conditions of your parole to me. You need to call this number tomorrow. It is the phone number of the adult parole office in Cincinnati.” Larry turned bright red with embarrassment, “you know about who I am yet…you still let me come here?”

“Of course, my son. This place will be a refuge for you as long as you need one.” Larry had heard nothing but good news, but he felt in shock. He didn’t know what to think. How unexpected this all was. He should be feeling relieved. It was all just happening too fast for him to adjust. His probation crisis solved? This easily?

Nothing in Larry’s life had been easy before. He has gone from living in an environment where the people around him posed dangers to his very survival to being surrounded by strangers who were always offering him help. Larry didn’t know what he could and could not believe anymore.

Why is Larry unable to trust anyone or anything around him? 

Larry experienced trauma throughout his development and it literally changed how he understands the world around him. Ted had a healthy start to life but was traumatized repeatedly as an adult; this led his brain to adjust to this new, dangerous reality. Both Larry and Ted have become hypervigilant to warning signs of danger.

To understand the brain mechanisms behind this hypervigilance go to: https://vimeo.com/100518405

10/21/2019 Part 105 Claire’s Story: Larry talks with Ted

By        A. Hosack,  P. Berman & K. Hecht,

I have so many questions. Is it safe to ask any?

Larry’s mind was in turmoil; He felt his past pain and suffering now as if his body was still being torn apart by his father. Yet, during some of his prayer sessions with the monks – he felt a sense of healing. Where was it coming from? He would look around and see nothing, just a room full of bowed heads. Sometimes the prayers were internal to each monk, so the silence was profound, yet in some way he felt he heard their prayers.

At meals, and during chores all of his attention was focused on protecting himself, yet the monks would look back at him so relaxed and calm; did this mean Larry didn’t have to be alert all the time? Did they really mean him no harm? It was hard to imagine there wasn’t something secret that they wanted from him that they hadn’t told him about yet. There were times Larry felt ready to explode from the pain inside him; yet another prayer session was always around the corner. He would join them in their prayer, just kneeling there trying to look invisible – but somehow, he would feel pulled into their words. Larry wasn’t sure if he believed in God. But he did know that somehow praying was keeping him from falling apart. Somehow being with the monks felt right to him.

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The life of the monks was so strange yet so boring when he thought about it alone at night. They did the same routine every day -with few complaints. When discord arose, other monks would step in and help resolve whatever the dispute was. They were always helping each other – without the use of punches, kicks and straps. Larry helped Ted so there was more variety to his day. Sometimes Ted would swear when he hit his head on something and this would make them seem more “normal” to Larry.

Their faces look so calm. Sometimes they’re tired but they never look despairing. Could I ever feel this way?

Larry had heard from Ted that a monastery was to be a sanctuary from the cares of the world. Thinking about money, entertainment, sex…. were traps to be avoided. A simple life allowed total dedication to following the precepts of the faith and helping all humanity through the power of prayer. Larry didn’t want to be a monk, but he didn’t want to leave.

Why did Larry want to stay? Was it just to be safe from the gang? Was it because he could finally sleep without fear?

Ted had asked Larry to help him fix leaks in the irrigation system the monks had built around their garden. He could tell that Larry was in turmoil about something, but he wasn’t sure what to do. Ted was very protective of the monks at the monastery. He very much appreciated how they had saved his family from financial ruin. They were so understanding about his troubles driving the bus in Cincinnati even though they needed someone to drive them in the city. Was Larry the right person to help with this? Ted decided to reach out and learn a little bit more about Larry.

Ted looked carefully at Larry, waiting patiently until Larry looked at him and returned his gaze. “Can I help you with anything Larry,” Ted asked, “I don’t mean to pry into your personal business, but you look like somebody with the problem.” Larry sighed and thought for a moment, He had trusted Martin and then it ended up dealing drugs. On the other hand, he trusted Manuel and he’d met a network of people who helped him without seeming to want anything in return.

I’m in violation of my parole just by being in Ohio. I need more help. Can Ted help me?

“You probably wondered why I‘m here Ted. (Larry looks down for a moment) I am not a good man (Larry looks into Ted’s eyes). I don’t have a family that’s waiting for me. (1-minute pause) In fact, my girlfriend and son are afraid of me and maybe I deserve that. (Larry looks down and punches his leg a few times) I punched my girlfriend in front of my son; it seemed like the right thing to do at the time (Larry looks down). I ended up in prison. I might have been killed in there, but I was brought into a gang and they protected me but only on the condition that now that I’m out – I have to sell drugs for them. They had me set up in front of the school- to make it easy to sell drugs to kids.  I ran from that life.”

Ted had experimented with drugs both in high school and then again when he was deployed. It’d been an escape from the horrors that he was witnessing. Larry seemed genuinely repentant. This is what he’d always been taught to look for by the church. Larry had done a lot of evil. He had a lot to make up for. Ted didn’t know if he could recommend him to the abbot as a driver. But, keeping him close to the monastery might be the best way for Larry to find a path is a good man.

Larry had been so deep in thought that he hadn’t noticed the conversation had stopped. He looked at Ted and said, “The Catholic Church helped me escape the gang by bringing me here. But I am on parole in Philadelphia. Just by being in Ohio I have violated my parole. I have an appointment in two days with my parole officer in Philadelphia. I don‘t know what to do Ted. I don’t want to leave here. But I’ve got to figure this parole thing out.” Larry has put his head down in his hands. Ted didn’t know what to say.

What would the monks do? What should a Christian do?

According to research by the PEW Center, 70.6% of people in the USA identify as Christian. Of these, 20.8% Identify as Catholic (https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/). While many people have found spiritual support in their religious institutions, few take the road of the monks and dedicate their entire lives to prayer and religious observance. Some people have found a haven within religious institutions. Others have been spiritually and sexually abused.

Are the monks in the monastery safe from Larry? 

Larry was raised in a violent family and has used emotional, physical And sexual violence in all of his adult relationships.

Is Larry safe from them?

While the monks spend their day in prayer, seek to be humble at all times, and do labor in support of their brothers, not all religious leaders embody the precepts of their faith.

Cases of Clergy spiritual abuse have been found around the world.  Sheila Vilvens and Jessie Balmert, of the Cincinnati Enquirer (October 9, 2008), reported on how The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) protested in Cincinnati Ohio calling on Atty. Gen. Mike Dewine to take action against clergy abuse.

To read more about these events go to:

https://www.wkyc.com/article/news/local/ohio/victims-of-abuse-by-catholic-clergy-call-on-ohio-attorney-general-mike-dewine-for-action/95-602485875