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: 


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? 


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.


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.


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:


10/18/2019 Part 104 Claire’s Story: a neglected dog could be a warning sign of family violence

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


We can’t afford this dog. What are we going to do? 

They couldn’t afford the dog. They had tried every which way to find a way to be able to do it- Davy had already named it Buddy. But, despite a growing attachment with everyone, Buddy was going to have to go. It wasn’t the food that was causing the problem- it was Buddy’s health care needs. Just checking on the cost of inoculation shots had nailed home the truth that Buddy had to go; veterinarian visits were just beyond their budget. 

Being a grown-up is tough. The Carsons and Claire knew what was going to have to happen, but poor Claire it was her responsibility to tell Davy. She had brought the dog home. While she had always said the dog couldn’t stay, she knew that Davy prayed every night that they would find the money to keep Buddy home- where he belonged. 

The time for truth had come. She had Davy sit in her lap with Buddy in his; she explained it. Davy cried; this made Buddy lick his face. Claire made a “loving dog available” sign to put in the yard and she wrote a brief ad in the newspaper saying they had a free dog to the right home.  Davy had been promised that everyone in the family would have a chance to ask questions if someone came by wanting to adopt Buddy.  Even Buddy was going to have a chance to get his opinion counted; a potential adopter would get fifteen minutes, tops, to get Buddy to wag his tail. If the tail didn’t wag- it was no deal. 

Everyone was exhausted by bedtime. Everyone felt bad about Buddy having to go. The last thing Davy said before he finally went to sleep, was why anyone would have left behind such a great dog like Buddy. Tucking Davy in, Claire decided she couldn’t say, “I don’t know” even one more time the next day. She searched the internet for information about abandoned animals so she could give Davy a better answer tomorrow 

Claire was shocked to know that an estimated 3.3 million dogs and 3.2 million cats ended up in shelters every year (https://www.aspca.org/animal-homelessness/shelter-intake-and-surrender/pet-statistics). Animals faced worse fates than just abandonment. Claire read how sometimes dogs were intentionally abused, to make them dangerous “guard” dogs. Sometimes they were intentionally abused for the same reasons as children, teens, and adults were. While searching for more information, Claire found the National Link Coalition. This coalition seeks to end all animal abuse and neglect; its website gave valuable information for recognizing the warning signs of animal abuse. It also contained a great deal of information about the context in which animal abuse usually occurred. 

Claire was stunned to find out that it was common for many types of people abuse to be occurring within a home where an animal was abused or neglected.  Thus, if a person in a family was being abused, everyone other living being- including the animals should be screened for safety. The reverse was also true, if an animal was found abused, all family members should be screened for safety. 

The more Claire read about animal abuse, the more flashbacks she had to hearing her parents talk about animals in the neighborhood being shot or drown. She began to shake as she remembered a picture of a dog that Larry had shown her. When she first saw it, she had cringed away, saying the dog looked terrifying. Larry had slapped her. This was his dog, his Sam; his dead pet. 


Larry and his older brother were responsible for feeding all the animals on the family farm. This included Sam, a German Sheppard mix they had raised from a puppy. They didn’t always have enough food for Sam, but he was good at catching rodents on the farm and never seemed to go hungry for long. While Sam was a good guard dog for their chickens and small animals, Larry was too attached to him; that’s what his dad would tell him anyway. A few weeks after they began to date, Larry suddenly disappeared from school for a week. Claire had been terrified that he had run away from home, without taking her with him.  

Finally, she found him lying, in the woods near their favorite place. He was shaking and covered in dried blood. Claire couldn’t get him to talk for hours. Finally, he began to tell her about working till he almost dropped from exhaustion last weekend on the farm. His father had to get the crops in before dark because a big rain was coming which could kill everything. In the darkening light, Larry unintentionally rode over a large tree branch and the tractor got stuck on it. Larry tried over and over, but he couldn’t get the engine to move the tractor off the branch by going either forward or backward. 

Larry got so desperate he actually ran to his older brother for help. At first, his brother just made fun of him; this turned out to be a dangerous mistake. His dad came out of the barn, furious, and demanded to know what was going on. Larry had no escape but to mention that the tractor was stuck out in the field and he was afraid its engine was damaged. Dad made the situation very clear. He had one hour to get that tractor back in the barn- with a working engine or he would shoot Sam. 

Larry didn’t have to even ask his brother for help again, as he took off back towards the tractor, his brother was by his side; they both cared for that stupid dog. Larry crawled under one side of the tractor and his brother looked at the underbelly from the front- even working as a team, they couldn’t move the tractor and when they began to smell burning, they knew they had better stop trying. 

They rushed home and tried to explain that they did everything they could think of to free the tractor. Larry promised to be up at 6 a.m. the next day. He felt sure that with more light, he could figure out what to do. His dad’s face went red with rage. He sent Larry into the barn to get the dog. Larry tried to shield the dog with his body, but it was no use. His dad made him hold Sam while he shot it; blood went everywhere. His brother helped him dig a grave for Sam; his dad insisted it be in the front yard where they would see it each day. The other kids had no idea what happened to him. Whenever his dad wanted to spook Larry, he would tell him to go outside and find Sam. 

Threatening to kill Buddy, was just one of the many ways his dad emotionally abused Larry.  

To learn more about how to recognize animal abuse, and how to support the welfare of animals and people consider reading more at: 


10/16/2019 Part 103 Claire’s Story: Mrs. Carson’s letter is published!

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

I can’t believe it! Look what she did for me! I can’t… 

Claire was holding the Saturday morning newspaper and feeling in shock. She had planned to just lay on the sofa and relax watching TV- it wasn’t easy to find time to just hang out and not try to accomplish a chore or a job. Davy was outside playing with Mr. Carson; Claire had time just for herself. She had sipped a little milk from her glass, put it down on the coffee table, and accidentally knocked the newspaper onto the floor. Reaching down to pick it up she saw the editorial page and…. Mrs. Carson’s name. 

Claire was riveted to the newspaper.  and immediately started reading. Mrs. Carson hadn’t mentioned her name but…it was her story- how she had been yelled at when she was trying so hard to take care of that little boy. Mrs. Carson had written to the newspaper about her! She had stood up for her in front of the whole town! “Mrs. Carson, Mrs. Carson come quick,” Claire yelled as she stood up from the couch and rushed to the stairs- Mrs. Carson was upstairs doing chores. 

“Claire,” Mrs. Carson said rushing down the stairs to be enveloped into Claire’s bear hug.  

I was so scared to hear her yelling my name but… (Mrs. Carson was confused) this must be something good! 

Mrs. Carson melted into Claire’s embrace. “What is it Claire?” she asked gently. Claire sobbed into Mrs. Carson’s shoulder, “You wrote about me! Come to the living room and see, it is in the newspaper.” Mrs.  Carson followed Claire into the living room and took the newspaper from her hand. There it was at the top of the editorial section.  

“They published it,” Mrs. Carson said proudly. “I didn’t think they would, but I hoped…”  Claire was jumping up and down with excitement, “it means so much to me that you would do this! I still can’t believe you did it,” Claire said gasping for breath. “I am going to get Davy and Mr. Carson,” Claire said, “you should read the letter to them in the living room- that way we can all share it.” Claire rushed outside, Mrs. Carson just wandered into the living room, not sure whether to stand or sit.  

I really did it. I wanted to write it. It was so hard. But I did it. 

Even seeing the published letter, Mrs. Carson found it hard to believe she had actually written it – and sent it in. Mrs. Carson was friendly and warm one-to-one but generally tried to be invisible when out in a public setting. She had to push herself, a little, to approach Shelly that important day in the park, when Claire had been introduced to her future career. But, addressing the community was something she would never have considered a few years ago. She had begun to think about doing something, but she didn’t know what, after Mr. Carson had gone to talk to their church board about donating money to Head Start. 

The church board had listened to Mr. Carson but given a lot of reasons that made no sense to her about why they wouldn’t give money to Head Start. The board had said that church funds had traditionally only been used for projects that would in some way benefit the members of the church. Mr. Carson had been disappointed. He believed that a good Christian should give money to benefit the poor; Head Start existed to help support the academic success of poor children. He left the board room shaking his head at their faulty reasoning. He had told Mrs. Carson that he thought the board was wrong but, he felt they had respectfully listened to his point of view.  

Mrs. had been very angry by the board’s behavior and hadn’t known what to do. How could her church, which always talked of caring for children, not consider donating to Head Start appropriate? Her anger kept her up at night until she came up with a plan, she thought would discharge it. Mrs. Carson had been saving up for a new dishwasher for several years- putting the odd dollar and change away. Reflecting on it, she didn’t think she could tolerate continuing to live with her anger at the board. She was quite sure she could live with the flawed dishwasher. Without telling anyone, Mrs. Carson sent all the money she had accumulated to Head Start; she found she could sleep again.   

Writing an editorial to the newspaper took even more courage from Mrs. Carson than sending an anonymous donation. Now, she had engaged in a type of social advocacy. Her letter was trying to influence people who read the newspaper. She wanted them to understand what it was like for a young person like Claire, to be yelled at and not listened to, when trying to do a good job. She wanted them to think more carefully how they treated others.  

I kept my donation to Head start a secret. What I have done now is no longer a secret. 

It had felt good to send money to Head Start. It was strange that she had never told Mr. Carson about what she had doneHad she unintentionally denied him the pleasure of knowing their family had done something good for Head Start- even if their church hadn’t?  Mrs. Carson wrote the letter to the editor to try to help young people like Claire – not to make herself feel goodBut unintentionally, this action step was making her feel better about herself as a foster mother and a woman in the world. She had come up with her own plan of action and carried it through. 

I hope he likes my letter. I wrote respectfully but I did not mince words. I hope I was a good role model for Claire. 

Mr. Carson and Davy filed into the living room. Claire told them to sit down, there was a surprise in the newspaper and Mrs. Carson was going to read it to them. “We all know what it is like to work hard and have our hard work go unnoticed,” Mrs. Carson started (Mr. Carson was nodding), “We also know what it is like to work hard and have this work not only unappreciated but also degraded. This happened to my daughter today…” Claire broke into tears and hugged Davy close. “What are you crying about mommy?” Davy asked, “I thought it was a good thing that Mrs. Carson got into the newspaper?”  

“It is a good thing, my Davy, it is just that, I never thought to hear Mrs. Carson call me her daughter and (1-minute pause, Claire is fighting back the tears) it sounds so wonderful it makes me cry happy tears.” Davy gave his mommy his serious look, “happy tears doesn’t make sense mommy, stop crying and let’s celebrate….” 

Mr. Carson redirected the attention back to his wife, “We will have ice cream Davy as soon as the author reads her entire letter to us!” Mr. Carson was beaming with pride as Mrs. Carson picked up the newspaper and finished reading her editorial. Reading the letter out-loud also helped Davy learn from what Mrs. Carson has done; you can take action to try to make a difference. Then, you could reward your hard work with…ice cream! 


Would you consider yourself an introvert? An extrovert? Somewhere in between? 

Whenever you have an experience, thoughts will go through your mind; it’s inevitable. But it can be hard to stand up and express your opinion, even on an issue that is important to you. Being an active not a passive bystander takes practice and courage. Is there an injustice you have witnessed recently?  

Is there anything you could do about it? A step that might just be pushing your comfort zone one step further? 

10/14/2019 Part 102 The Story of Claire: There’s a dog in the mud room!

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


Oh No! I forgot the dog!! 

Claire had fallen asleep after writing in her diary. She woke up two hours later, suddenly with a vision of a small dog in the mud room all alone. Claire ran out of her room raced down the stairs and rushed into the kitchen. She quickly opened the cabinet looking for the right size bowl, grab one and filled it with water and rushed into the mudroom. The slam of the kitchen door grabbed everyone else’s attention.  

The little dog was laying down on the floor listless. She put the water next to its nose. It still didn’t get up. She picked the dog up and began to stroke it, at first, she got no response. Finally, it looked up at her, she held the bowl underneath its muzzle and it slowly began to lick up the water. It showed no response as first Mr., Mrs., and finally Davy rushed into the mudroom to find out what was going on. 

“Mommy brought a dog home!” Davy said barely breathing-he was afraid if he breathed too loud Mrs. Carson would make the dog go away. “I found it as I was walking home,” Claire said slowly afraid to make too much noise and disrupt the dog from drinking. “It was in a neglected yard and I picked it up and walked up to the nearest house and knocked on the door. The owner told me that the family that owned the dog had moved away and left the dog behind,” Claire looked at the Carsons’ and said, “he looked neglected and hungry like I often felt when I was growing up. I couldn’t just leave him there to starve. I don’t mean to keep him just to find out from you what to do.” 

What can I give a starving dog? Its stomach needs something on the gentle side. Hum. 

“That dog needs something to eat,” Mrs. Carson said looking hard at Claire before going into the house to look for something.  There was nothing in the kitchen for animals- taking care of Claire and Davy was hard enough. She didn’t want to keep this dog, but she wasn’t going to ignore a starving animal either. She picked up a box of Cheerios and stared at the ingredients. 

Mrs. Carson returned to the mud room with another bowl filled with dry Cheerios. “I wasn’t sure what would be the best thing to try,” she said, “but I don’t think this will be too hard for the dog to digest.” The little dog showed no interest in the bowl. It was cringing against Claire. “I think the dog is scared of all the new people who are around. I had to stroke it for a while before it would even lap the water.” 

I want this dog to like me. What should I do? 

Can I help the dog eat mommy?” Davy asked. “Why don’t you put a few pieces of cereal in your hand and just hold your hand quietly near his nose.” Davy filled his hand with cereal and shoved his hand in the dog’s muzzle. The dog whined and pushed itself closer into Claire’s body. “it’s a very scared dog Davy, try being even gentler. Don’t actually touch the dog, just let its little nose smell the goodies in the palm of your hand,” Claire whispered. 

Davy tried again. He had a tight fist around his Cheerios. He opened his fingers slowly and reached close to but not touching the dog’s nose. The dog stared at the hand for a minute and then sniffed. A pink tongue darted out and grabbed the Cheerios out of Davy’s hand. Davy pulled his hand back quickly against his own body saying, “That felt tickly.” Davy looked at the palm of his hand and then smiled happily as he noticed the dog was chewing. “I fed him; did you see that Mrs. Carson I fed the dog Cheerios.”  

“You are being very gentle and careful Davy,” Mr. Carson said, “this is the way you need to be around scared animals.” “Why would the little dog be scared of us?” Davy asked, “We wouldn’t hurt it?” Claire looked down in her lap and then up at Davy and said, “This little dog was left behind by the people who were supposed to care for it.” “Why would they do that mommy?” “I don’t know my Davy. (1-minute silence) The dog has no reason to think we will be good to it.” 

The little dog has no reason to trust me. But, it is snuggling so close to me. It seems to feel safe with…me? 

The little dog was so skinny that Claire could feel its heart beating against her stomach. Whenever Davy or the Carsons got close, it cringed against her. Could she have become important to this little dog?  

Its asleep! It fell asleep in my arms… 

Claire gently put the dog down on the floor and stood up. She stood staring at it. Mrs. Carson noticed the peaceful look on Claire’s face.  


I don’t want a dog…but look at Claire’s face. Would an animal help her? 

Mrs. Carson is right. It will take a lot of work to take care of a dog. But, dogs have been found to help many people with a variety of psychological and physical problems. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), people can bring “service animals” with them into public places where normally animals aren’t allowed. A service animal has received extensive training to help a person manage their psychological or physical problems. They are highly trained animals. On the other hand, a new movement is trying to make it acceptable to bring animals, that may not have received training, but bring comfort to their owners. Like this little dog is bringing to Claire.  

What do you think about allowing “comfort support animals” into public places? What are the benefits? Are there any negatives to allowing this? 

To read more about how animals can help others, as well as how the term “comfort support animal” is being abused consider reading the following article. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2016/09/pet-aid 


10/11/2019 Part 101 Claire’s Story: Claire finally makes it home

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

Home. I’ve made it home. My Davy is waiting for me. What will everyone think about the dog? 


Claire left the little dog in the mudroom outside of the kitchen and then came in the kitchen door. Mrs. Carson turned to look at her, startled that she was coming in the side door instead of the front door and an hour late. Dinner had been delayed for her arrival and Davy had asked Mr. and Mrs. Carson, about 20 times where she was and why she was late. 

I worry so much about her. She has come so far but still…she is so fragile. 

Mrs. Carson had been acting very calm and collected for Davy on the outside; on the in-side she was very worried because Claire usually called if she had to stay late at work. She just kept supervising Davy as he did his work from school and did her best to help keep him occupied doing useful things in the kitchen as he waited for his mommy to arrive. As Claire walked in, Mrs. Carson noticed how pale and exhausted she looked; what was that dirty patch in the middle of her dress? What was going on? She knew better than to start with questions. First, she went over and hugged Claire and stroked her hair. After a few minutes of using her own body heat to drive the coldness out of Claire’s she said, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?” 

Claire looked at Mrs. Carson while still desperately clinging to her as if the hug itself could keep her from being a waste of space. “Claire, Mrs. Carson said insistently. “Holding it in doesn’t work, you know that. What is it?” “A mother today tried to get me fired,” said Claire breaking into tears and sobbing as a startled Mrs. Carson kept stroking her hair. 

Davy had sharp ears. Hearing his mother crying he ran into the room like a whirlwind. “Mommy what’s wrong?” Mrs. Carson gave him a careful look before saying gently, “Davy, this is a grown- up problem, if you want to help, give your mommy a hug and then go spend more time with Mr. Carson while I help your mommy.” Davy added his small hug to Mrs. Carson’s, feeling bad that his mommy hadn’t even said hello to him when he had been waiting so long for her to come home.  But he understood the words “it’s a grown-up problem” and knew he was supposed to do what he was told. In his heart, Davy was glad that Mrs. Carson was handling the problem because it was always so scary when his big strong mommy cried. 

Once Davy was out of the room, Mrs. Carson whispered in Claire’s ear, “let’s sit down at the table and you tell me more about what happened.” Claire described how she had done everything that usually worked in helping small children calm down and have their teeth examined. But today it hadn’t worked at all. A little boy had just started screaming that she was hurting him, and she didn’t understand why. The mother had rushed in and blamed her for everything. She had yelled at Claire for hurting her son and then told the Dentist to fire her.  

My poor Claire!  She has done such great things at work, but it just takes one bad to trigger such painful memories for her. 

Mrs. Carson reaches across the table to take Claire’s hand. She holds it in a strong comforting grasp while Claire cries (two- minute silence). “You would never have intentionally hurt this child. Maybe he is one of those people with extremely sensitive teeth. (1-minute silence) What do you think might have happened?” 

He could have sensitive teeth, but it would still be all my fault. I can’t do anything right! 

Claire felt Mrs. Carson’s warm hand squeeze hers. She looked up into her foster mother’s eyes- to see the genuine love there. Claire started thinking again. (1-minute silence) “If his teeth were that sensitive, I think he would have started complaining right away. Instead, he seemed to get upset when I was brushing the left lower teeth; he might have had a severe cavity that hurt when I brushed it. This was his first time to the dentist even though he should’ve been coming for several years. (1-minute silence, thinking about when she tried to get Davy to do something he didn’t want to do.) He might not have been hurt at all.  The receptionist warned me that his mom literally dragged him into the office; he was complaining that he did not want to see a dentist.” 

Mrs. Carson looked at Claire kindly, “So, you might have hurt him because you made a mistake. Or, maybe anyone touching his tooth would have hurt him. Or, maybe nothing was really wrong and that mother over-reacted,” Mrs. Carson said. Claire suddenly turned bright red and looked guilty. “I am sorry that I’m wasting your time with this Mrs. Carson, you must be very hungry. I know its past dinner time. I did everything wrong when I left work. First, I walked past the bus stop. Then, I forgot to get off the bus (Claire started weeping again). “You have had a hard day,” Mrs. Carson said, “I can take care of the family for a while, what would help you?” 

“I need to keep thinking about that little boy. If I write all the details I remember, down in my diary, I think it will help me think through what I did right and what might have been mistakes. This has helped me before. Dr. Berman says I tend to do this tunnel vision thing where I focus too much on one small thing I did rather than remembering everything I did. If I look at the day more completely, I may understand better what happened and why the dentist didn’t fire me.”  

“Do you want to do that now or after dinner?” Mrs. Carson asked. “Please have dinner without me. I have worried so much my stomach just hurts. I just need to be in my room alone to work this out and calm down,” Claire said. “Go ahead dear, I will make sure to have a plate of dinner ready for you if you get hungry later.” Claire stood up left the room.” 

Mrs. Carson just sat at the table for a moment; she needed to get dinner out of the stove and onto the dining room table, but she felt too exhausted to move. Her day had been very pleasant until talking to Claire. Listening to all the misery pouring out of Claire’s mouth, had left her feeling completely stressed out herself. What should she do to help herself she wondered?  

What do I want? I want the world to give my Claire the kindness she deserves; she tries so hard! 

Mrs. Carson noticed her copy of the local paper. Her husband had written an editorial a few months ago. A few members of their church had actually read it. She didn’t know if anyone would read anything, she wrote but she decided it was her turn to put the family name on an editorial. She felt her energy returning as she imagined the mother who had yelled at Claire, reading her editorial and regretting what she had done.  

Mrs. Carson sat down at the kitchen table and wrote her first letter to the editor. Maybe it would be published, maybe not. Maybe no one would read it and she would never write another one. But, maybe it could make a difference. As she thought about taking an active step to help her Claire, she felt her stress level drain down to nothing; maybe, she could make a difference. Her letter is below: 

Dear Readers, 

We all know what it is like to work hard and have our hard work go unnoticed. We also know what it is like to work hard and have this work not only unappreciated but also degraded. This happened to my daughter today. She is at her first job after graduating from school. She worked very hard today trying to make a small child feel safe while having his teeth worked on at the dentist. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and the child was very unhappy. The mother of the child didn’t ask any questions, she just yelled at my daughter who already felt bad that she had not helped the child; she now feels worthless because this mother tried to get her fired. 

Did the mother need to yell? Did this help her child’s teeth not hurt? Was trying to get my daughter fired teaching the child a lesson he needed to know?   

We can all play a role in improving the public’s welfare by being slower to yell and faster to show appreciation for the hard work of others; even if the work doesn’t bring the results we wanted. 

Sincerely yours, 

Mrs. E. Carson 

Could you ever imagine yourself writing a letter like this? 


10/9/2019 Part 100 Claire’s Story: Claire is trudging home

By    P. BermanK. Hecht & A. Hosack 

I deserve this. I am so worthless. All I had to do was get off the bus. I couldn’t even do that right. 

Claire didn’t ask the bus driver for help. She didn’t think she deserved help from anyone. She had made this mistake. She would have to fix it herself. Awash in thoughts that she was always wrong, she was always stupid, and she was always a waste of space, she kept moving her feet in what she thought was the right direction. Claire had learned so much from the Carsons and from school. But, none of this mattered now. Her achievements were drowning in her memories of past pain. 

As she walked down the street, the sun finished setting and the few people still outside, didn’t notice the tears slowly pouring down Claire’s face. If she had been on time, there would have been a bustle of people rushing home for dinner. Everyone seemed to have gotten home but her; of course, she was the only one who couldn’t remember a simple thing like to get off the bus at her stop. She had managed to walk about a mile. Surely, she could get home in twenty more minutes…she hoped. 

What was that? Am I hearing things? 

She suddenly stopped moving and tried to focus her attention on the sounds on the street. There it was again! Where was it coming from- it was so soft and sounded so sad. It was gone. Was she imagining it? Did it matter? Did anything she did matter? Was it just a little louder over in this direction? Claire knelt right at the corner of a badly kept yard. The house on it looked neglected too. There it was- the maker of the sounds. A small undernourished dog looked up at Claire. She put out her hand carefully and didn’t move. Slowly the dog came out of the grass. 


It came up to Claire and sniffed her hand. She gently rubbed his head with her other hand, and it licked her palm; it tickled.  

Davy would love this! Why is this cute little dog so skinny? Where does it belong? 

Claire picked up the dog and continued to stroke it gently. She looked around and went up to the nearest house and knocked tentatively on the door. She was afraid but this little dog needed food. It had probably gotten lost.  A man came to the door and asked her politely what she wanted. She indicated she found this dog in the abandoned lot next to his house. He said it had belonged to the prior owners of the house next door who had disappeared suddenly with all their belongings about two weeks ago. 

Was it an accident that the dog was left behind? Did they decide it was a waste of space like me? 

Claire thanked the man for his help and continued walking towards home, holding the little dog close to her and stroking its head. She didn’t know what would happen to the dog, but she was sure Mr. Carson would know what to do. Davy would get a chance to pet this dog and have its little tongue tickle his hand. Claire was walking very slowly because she was so tired, but she had to keep moving- the dog needed food.  She’d never had a pet growing up. She had been taught that animals as pets were a waste of time and food.  

Stopping for a moment to take a break, Claire looked down on this little dog, now fast asleep. It would probably take a lot of money to feed this dog and get it back up to its proper weight. It clearly didn’t expect much from life, look how quickly it had accepted her. For a moment she imagined keeping the dog. She could see Davy chasing it around the back woods- laughing. What a stupid idea. She could barely care for Davy. She couldn’t add a dog to her list of responsibilities.  It wouldn’t be fair to ask the Carson’s to look after it while she was at work. They were already helping her so much with Davy. 

It seemed like such a sweet little dog. Who were the people who’d left it behind?  

If you walk by someone else’s property and see a potentially neglected or abused animal, this could be a warning sign that people on the property are also being abused or neglected. If you are interested in learning about the connections between mistreatment of animals and mistreatment of people, consider clicking on the link below: 



10/7/2019 Part 99 Claire’s Story: Claire Is late coming home

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

I’m not fired, I’m not fired, I must get back to work.  I have to help my next patient! 

Claire still feels like a total failure and is struggling to do her job. She forces herself up from the chair and notices she still has the full cup of coffee the dentist gave her. She tries to take a sip, but it just makes her stomach hurt more; she throws it into the trash and walks quietly to her workspace and cleans everything up to be ready for the next patient. How can she do this? Will her next patient be as dissatisfied and angry as the last one?  

Claire finds herself beginning to hyperventilate. She can’t have a panic attack now. She just can’t. She tries to use her deep breathing exercises, but she can’t focus her attention inward. She pulls her picture of Davy out of the pocket of her work smock where she always keeps it. 

It is such a cute picture of Davy with his arms around her legs. I will get back to work- for my Davy 

Focusing her attention on how much she loves Davy, helps her breathing to slow down. The panic attack has been shoved away. Claire walks with determination out to the waiting room and calls her next patient, fortunately it’s an adult – she just doesn’t feel ready to try face another child and parent. Claire is very lucky. This woman patient is extremely friendly and talks nonstop. Claire doesn’t have to say much of anything. When she’s done cleaning the woman’s teeth, Claire is fully calm and back to her routine. As Claire escorts her back to the waiting room, she feels a genuine smile on her face as the patient waves to her gaily as she walks out the door. 

I did it. I did it for Davy. 

Claire is able to feel proud for a moment. She has overcome a panic attack. However, she doesn’t have time to think about herself. She calls in her next patient who seems to be a very withdrawn adult. She isn’t sure if she is ready for a challenging patient but then, she notices how much he is sweating. She wonders if he’s scared about having his teeth cleaned; some people are afraid of the Dentist’s office. Claire knows what to do, she trained for this in school. She is going to explain every task that she is about to do and smile at him before she does it. The dentist walks by to hear her carefully explaining to him how she will be cleaning his teeth and shows him the tool that she will be using. The dentist smiles to herself and walks past the room. She has seen that Claire is doing her usual very fine job; she has no idea how hard this was for Claire to due after being yelled at. 

Claire has been sweating profusely under her work smock; fortunately, it doesn’t show. While she has not gone into a panic attack, the day has been a constant struggle for her.  She needs to be home where she feels safe- one more patient. 

This is my last patient. I can go home soon. 

Claire looks down at her schedule and recognizes that her last patient is a little boy. Can she handle it? It’s Gregory, thank goodness. She’s worked on his teeth before and he really likes Claire. When Gregory bounces through the door, he shoves a picture in her general direction as his dad encourages him to slow down and remember his manners.  Claire looks at the picture and a big smile erupts on her face. The little boy has drawn a picture of himself with a huge mouthful of teeth. Gregory looks up at her and says, “do you like it? I made my teeth big so it would be easy for you to clean them.” “It’s wonderful Greggory, you are right, these big teeth are going to be so easy to clean!” His dad scoops him up and puts him in the dental chair and then says, “see you later munchkin, once your teeth are shiny.”   

Claire smiles at Greggory, opening her mouth wide to show her teeth. “Now it’s your turn Greggory, let me see those huge teeth of yours!” The time goes by swiftly. It is her usual, fun time with a child. Will the pain of that one bad experience evaporate now? The Dentist has forgotten all about it. But, Claire has not. The moment she is out of the office and alone, fearful thoughts flood her mind. She walks off in a daze, forgetting to cross the street to her bus stop sign. It is only when it starts to drizzle that Claire wakes up to her surroundings. 

Where’s the bus stop? 

Claire looked around –nothing looked familiar. Where was she and where was the bus stop? “I am so stupid,” she said out loud. She noticed a bench on the sidewalk up ahead; she went and sat down trying to clear her head. 

I know how to get home. I just have to calm down. I’m going to close my eyes and imagine my fish. 

It took five minutes for Claire to focus her attention and really see her fish in her head. She smiled and opened her eyes. She didn’t see the bus stop sign but it was getting dark and hard to see. She stood up and turned in a wide circle looking for the tall building that housed the dental office where she worked. There it was! She started walking towards it while slowly looking around until she saw the bus stop across the street. She hurried across and looked at the posted schedule carefully. She’d missed the bus by about 10 minutes.          

I hate myself I am such an idiot to have missed that bus. Such an idiot. Such an idiot. 


Time passed as painful thoughts once again took over Claire’s mind. But, when the bus came, the noise and the wind of its arrival woke her up. She stepped onto the bus and sat down quickly became lost again. The words were so clear in her head. They began with the child calling for his mother because she was hurting him. Then, his mother was screaming for the Dentist, and finally the most painful and powerful words of all- her mother screaming that she was a waste of space.  Claire was so lost in her head that she didn’t hear the bus driver announcing her stop.  

At the end of the line, the driver looked back at her and said she had to get off the bus. Claire was at least two miles from home. What could she do? 

Have you ever been so lost in your thoughts that you didn’t get off a bus or a train on time? How did you get yourself back on track? 

Should Claire ask the bus driver for help? 

Would this be a safe choice for a young woman who finds herself alone in a strange place