The Tattoo Artist: Gabriela

Gabriela is a 30 years tattoo Artist, who studied Arts for three but had to retire to help her parents during the financial problems that arose with the burst of the housing bubble. Especially interested in the Renaissance era was expected she turns to photorealism.

Tattooing produces a constant and rapid flow of money that grows during a crisis when the "now or never" spirit accelerates impulsive decision-making and with it the number of people who wanted an infinity symbol tattoed in their wrists or a "together forever" in their ribcages. 

For Gabriela, the important thing was that her parents didn't become homeless. So she gave up on finishing her career, for now, she says.The first days of sweeping the study and sitting down for no money only to watch others working were hard. Not to mention getting used to needles or working on a human canvas that feels pain, change minds or suffer cramps. Tattooing is not for the faint of heart. To prove her talent and that she could start working on real people she tattooed a portrait of her parents, inverted, on her left thigh.

Since then she has covered a good part of her body with tattoos and piercings, even a small heart-shaped scarification on the back of her ear to commemorate the birth of her first daughter Sally, who's already on the 2nd grade of primary school.

Sally wants to grow up to be an artist like her mother. Sometimes Gabriela finds Sally playing with markers and making designs on her skin or her friends. Some parents find the little tattoo artist's attempts funny; some don't.

For that reason, they cited Gabriela to a parents meeting. Sally had made a drawing of a man being pierced by needles; it looked like a human porcupine. "We had to support psychologically this poor girl who has been suffering the consequences of the dangerous job her mother practiced and, How could you blame the innocent child? Especially when her mother looks like "that."

Facing the corpus delicti, Gabriela immediately recognized the scene. A week earlier they had taken Sally's grandfather to the acupuncturist due to intense sciatica discomfort. Once the apologies ended, Gabriela announced she would change her daughter to another school. Apparently, the one she attended didn't promote diversity or tolerance. What would you have done being in Gabriela's shoes? Would you allow your children to learn to discriminate others just for their looks?

Have you ever felt discriminated for your appearance? How do you think about tattoos? Do you see them as a form of expression, a symbol of rebellion? Can you imagine a tattoo artist as a committed family person?

The New Student

When Jeremy's parents divorced, his life collapsed. Of course, Jeremy and his sister had seen their parents' marriage failed for the last two years: an infidel father, a workaholic Mother and the constant moving, the permanent changes. Although it sounds cliché, there were years in which for Jeremy and his family was way more practical keeping their clothes in a suitcase than in drawers. When your entire life fits in a box your need of freedom is more significant, he thought.

As contradictory as it may seem, having lived in several cities of 5 different countries before reaching age 15 is almost never a good idea, at least not when your parents' are practically never at home, and friends come and go. How to create structured thinking?, life goals and long-term relationships when you can't tell for sure in which High School you will finish Senior Year.

Some people can spend a lifetime clinging to the baby blanket with which they were baptized just months after being born. They found in that simple piece of fabric the comfort and tranquility of knowing they are protected in the same safe place where they were raised. All those symbols become lost in moving trucks, or they are left behind for exceeding luggage limits or get packed God knows where.

Moving is one of the most traumatic events that can be experienced, some psychologists compare it with the mourning the death of a loved one, and that is when we move a little part of ourselves stay in that place we called home. 

There are even military psychology studies addressing personality traits and characteristics of the children of full-time military service parents.  Known as "Military brats" is a lifestyle full of changes and stress due to the very fact of armed conflict.

 Of course, in Jeremy's case, there were no threats of mass destruction or terrorism, although at age 15, going to a new school, leaving all your friends and starting a new life, every six months, feels the same. 

For every new student, new co-worker or neighbor, everything is unknown, and the uncertainty can be overwhelming since they left everything known behind; Saying Hi! Offering them help can mean a world to them.

How well can you handle change? Do you welcome the new or reject it? What step have you recently taken outside of your comfort zone?  

Parent of Juvenile Delinquent

This is Carla. Carla is currently living alone in the home she helped create for her family sixteen years ago. Her husband, Paul, recently left her after the family fell on hard times. 
Carla’s oldest daughter, Chandra, doesn’t come home from college anymore since it happened. She barely even calls, attempting to distance herself from the troubles in the home town as much as possible. That trouble, of course, being Jeremy’s recent arrest.
Jeremy is the youngest of Carla’s two children. Jeremy, age sixteen, is facing felony charges for attempted murder. It was a robbery gone wrong, according to the detectives. Jeremy had agreed to help his friends steal some guns from the basement of one of their relatives’ home. When the relative returned home early and caught the boys, Jeremy instinctively fired. Fortunately, the man survived, but the boys have been arrested and are now awaiting trial.
Word spreads fast in a small town. Everyone seems to know what Jeremy did and most have formed opinions on the entire family as a result. Chandra chooses not to come home where everyone wants to ask questions about the event. Paul left shortly after the arrest, stating that he had always told Carla that she was raising Jeremy wrong and now she’d have to clean up the mess she made all by herself.
Carla never raised Jeremy to be a criminal, and she certainly didn’t raise him to be an attempted murderer. There was just always something a little off about Jeremy. He seemed to get in trouble more than other kids. He didn’t have a real firm grasp of his personal convictions, choosing instead to often be a follower. He could never manage to choose good people to follow, though, either. 
Around town, rumors have been circulating that Carla and Paul, themselves, are involved in criminal activities. Absurd statements about their personal characters have become common. Until Jeremy got in trouble, though, Carla had a strong group of friends that believed the best about her. As soon as the trouble arrived, they all disappeared into the woodwork and now she is the most frequent topic of conversation around the coffee shop table when they get together. 

Carla feels very alone because she is. All she has ever wanted was to raise Jeremy to see the good in himself, but now he will face a lifetime of reminders of the worst thing he ever did. The entire family has been ripped apart by one foolish choice made by a boy that Carla could never manage to reach, no matter how hard she tried. Yet, an entire community that failed him has decided to blame her solely for the actions that took place. 
Is there a Carla in your town? What would you say to her now, having seen things from her perspective? How might we all work a little harder to improve the system that is currently in place to protect the Jeremys and Carlas of the world? Would you help?

The Bill Collector

The man in the middle is named Anthony. Anthony works in a call center where he is tasked with the job of collecting on unpaid debts.
Anthony is often accused of being a “vulture” or a “scam artist” by those who owe money to the credit card company where he works. Sometimes, he has to call people and demand payment even when he knows they cannot pay him. He hears stories that make him sad and is spoken to harshly by those who are really angry about other situations. Anthony is not allowed by his employer to defend himself when he is verbally abused. His self esteem suffers from the things people say sometimes.
Usually, the people Anthony calls simply didn’t understand the terms of their credit offer. They are upset about the fees accrued and blame Anthony, personally, for the amount of money they owe. Anthony has no control over the fees. It is simply his job to collect.
He would like to find another job, but the economy where he lives is sparse. There aren’t many opportunities outside of the call center, which is the main employer in his town. Some people on the phone think Anthony enjoys harassing them for their money, but in truth Anthony wishes he didn’t have to. He also wishes there was a better system for helping those who have fallen behind. 

Anthony knows about financial trouble. He, also, has a poor credit rating because of hospital bills from a prior illness. He knows how it feels to lose your job and be unable to make your payments. It truly bothers him when he has to call someone that is unable to make their payments because he knows these calls are another overwhelming reminder of their bad situation. 
Sometimes, Anthony wishes he could skip certain names when they appear on his list. There are some customers he has called multiple times over several weeks. He knows they are in a tough situation and can’t pay him, but he will get fired if he doesn’t make the call. 
Other times, he sees names that make him dread calling them for another reason. He doesn’t want to be berated or abused by a person that simply chooses not to fulfill their obligations, but he has to. It is easy for people to forget, he thinks, that he is an actual person and not just a voice on the other end of the line. 
Hopefully, most of us will never find ourselves in a position to receive a phone call from someone like Anthony. However, should trouble arise in our lives and we do receive such a call, what are some things we can remember about the person on the other end? How can we maintain our composure to treat all people with the dignity and respect they deserve, even if we feel they aren’t respecting or showing dignity to us? How might situations be resolved with a bill collector to prevent these conversations from turning ugly?

Single Mother

This is Ashley. Ashley is a single mother to a boy named Aiden. She lives in a one-bedroom apartment above an antique store downtown with her son and her cat, Ralph, whom she’s had as a constant best friend since she was a child herself.
Ashley, Ralph, and Aiden spend most of their nights alone together. Although Ashley is young and most of her friends still lead very active social lives, Ashley’s nights are full of caring for her obligations at home and her days are often spent working. Ashley works two jobs. She has a full-time job in a record store. The money she earns from the record store helps to pay the bills. She is able to afford rent, her phone bill, and her utilities without needing any assistance. 
She works her second job- two nights every weekend- at a diner. Her parents babysit Aiden while she works this job. Originally, they offered to babysit him for free on weekends so she could spend time with her friends. Instead, Ashley chooses to use her free weekends to earn a second paycheck, which helps her to afford the cost of day care for her to work the first job. 
She is often told by her parents and friends that she should pursue child support from Aiden’s father. However, Ashley knows that Aiden’s father does not want to help support his son and she is afraid of inviting him back into their lives because he is known to hurt those who are close to him. 

Ashley’s friends don’t spend a lot of time keeping in touch with Ashley anymore. At first, they tried to convince her to come out with them. Over time, though, they got tired of Ashley always saying no. They felt like Ashley was no longer interested in being a friend, so they allowed their relationships with her to unravel. Ashley never complains, but she feels left behind by her friends and family. She often feels like she is very alone in the world. 

Ashley is devoted  to her job as Aiden’s mother, but she and Aiden do struggle to find balance in their lives. Aiden misbehaves at day care because he is sad that he can’t spend more time with her. The day care workers blame Ashley for his behavior and sometimes make her feel like she is doing a poor job of parenting, although Ashley is doing all that she can. Ashley feels like she is failing Aiden. Meanwhile, Aiden feels like his mother is the only person in the world he can trust because he doesn’t know many others. 

Do you know a single mother? Do you think that sometimes they might also feel like Ashley? How can we help other young, single mothers that are in her position? What about Aiden? Are there programs in your community where you could volunteer to ensure that children like him are getting the help and attention they need while their mothers are busy working? 

Aging Widower

This is Gregory. Gregory is an aging widower. He lives alone in Iowa in the house he and his wife bought when they first married forty- plus years ago. 
Gregory’s children are grown now. There was a time when their little voices filled every room of the home. Now, one is on Connecticut. Another lives down in Florida and the third- well, he’s not sure where that one will ever wind up. She is always off on some adventure and she doesn’t call home much anymore since her mother died. 
Gregory has three grandchildren. One is a boy- named after him, even- who lives in Connecticut with his mother, Gregory’s oldest daughter. Gregory has only met that child twice in the nine years he’s been alive. 
The son down in Florida keeps fairly regular contact with his dad, but doesn’t see much of his daughters- Gregory’s granddaughters- since divorcing their mother three years ago. Gregory often wonders about them, but feels it best to avoid asking. He was never good at broaching touchy subjects. Not like his wife was, anyway.
Gregory never expected to outlive Martha. He spent most of his life working hard to ensure that she would be taken care of long after he was gone. He paid the mortgage off early. He invested well. He never missed a day of work. He spent so much time ensuring the future of his family, he missed out on the kids growing up. He lost precious time with his wife. 

Now, he is alone and he doesn’t know how to ask his children for their company. He would gladly pay for them to come see him if money were the issue, but sometimes he thinks it’s just him. They don’t seem to like him as much as they did their mother. He doesn’t want to be a bother.
He spends most of his days doing the things he knows would make Martha happy if she were here. He still prunes her prized rose bushes, even ten years after she passed. Last week, he caught a neighborhood kid picking a bud from the bush and yelled at him to get out of his yard. He felt bad for yelling right after he did it, but the child was in Martha’s roses and it broke his heart to think one might not bloom. 

The next day, he heard the child telling other children he was mean.
Is Gregory mean? How can we relate to Gregory? What things could we do to help others like Gregory in our neighborhood?

Child with Autism

This is Bao.  Bao is a child with Autism. He lives in a care center because his behavior is sporadic and his mother can no longer manage him. 
Bao often refuses to talk to people. Instead, he will pound his fists on tables, scream, or cover his ears. Occasionally, when Bao is not getting his way, he will hit himself or his peers. He has no real friends and does not like to give or receive affection. He spends most of his time alone, looking out the window. 

Today, Bao is struggling because his head hurts and he does not know how to tell his caretakers. Nobody knows that Bao often gets headaches because he isn’t able to tell them. The stress of being unable to tell them means that the headaches hurt worse and last longer.
Because of the way Bao’s mind works, he is often uncomfortable. Even something as simple as the tag on his shirt can feel like a thorned vine rubbing across his back. When his caregivers don’t understand him, they sometimes become frustrated and forget to talk to him like a person. Bao hates it when people don’t talk to him like a person, but he understands that he isn’t able to communicate well with them, either. 
What Bao doesn’t understand is why his life has to be different from that of other children. Bao watches his peers play together and talk and have fun, but he doesn’t know how to interact the same way. Bao feels very lonely sometimes. 
Pretend you are Bao. What if you were in pain and could not tell anyone? What if every day you had to wear clothing that didn’t seem to fit properly, but nobody understood? Have you ever been in a situation where you felt left out or misunderstood? Have you ever been so frustrated you wanted to pound your fists on a table? How must it feel to live that way all the time?
What are some other ways you can relate to Bao? Do you feel like perhaps he withdraws because he is embarrassed to try to interact? How might you help someone like Bao feel more comfortable and included when you meet them? What could we do, as a society, to ensure that Bao and other children like him never feel like they are a burden? What might happen if we, instead, give them tools to flourish?

Jennifer: The Millennial Sex-scandal

Jenniffer is supposed to identify herself with being a millennial. She was born in October 1997, but still, she doesn't feel like she belongs to any particular era, in fact, she likes many retro-inspired clothes and vintage memorabilia. Mainly from the Hollywood golden age.

She started a Youtube channel about cinema Stars from that era, but it's currently on hold. A small, yet loud, scandal that she suffered last holidays change her perspective.

When her boyfriend had his cell phone stolen in a local Pub, hem making love went viral. In a heartbeat, her friends and family were knocking her cellphone with messages and questions about it.

How can you love yourself so little? Asked one of her aunts. Of course, Jennifer could understand that a woman who has never left Grinnell, Iowa, tends to be that square,  but why to question her self-esteem when, on the contrary, a person must have a lot of self-confidence to allow to be recorded at such a private and vulnerable moment?

Of course, nobody feels comfortable with the role of pornstar being imposed, but if she learned something with her anthropology and sociology studies (still doesn't know which one to pursue) is that sexuality is something entirely natural to the human body and society.

ichel Foucault in "L'Histoire de la sexualité" points out that sexual pathologies didn't exist until the idea of exual deviance was constructed. A woman and her boyfriend, both over 21 years, having consent sexual intercourse is not malicious per se,  the wicked thing is the fact of feeling free enough to video record themselves.

But, if it was agreed, what's the big deal? What to do now with all that shamming and exposure? How can a couple survive all that pressure? Luckily, the video turned out to unite them more. Both agree that sexuality shouldn't embarrass anyone; Though erotic games should remain private, this scandal its temporary, not only in social media but their lives.

In fact, they're thinking of marketing shirts that say "Love is natural" and transform the theme of the Youtube channel into support for victims of bullying and CyberShamming, so they decided to put it on hold, changing the platform, the banners, and social networks.

What do you think about internet scandals? Have you stopped to consider the origin of the content you share? What would you do if you see yourself exposed like that? If your children are exposed like that? Emotional support and forgiveness should always come first.

The outcast girl: Allison

Hi Stranger. As you can imagine for the title, my name is Allison. I’m writing this down only to explain why staring at someone is rude. I choose to wear black every day. No, no one in my family passed away, not recently at least. My mom died, but that was several years ago, anyway.

I dress this way not because is trendy or to make me look slimmer; I don’t have a problem with my weight or anything; It’s just that wearing black is so much easier! Not color combination pallets, no complications, no hesitation between seasonal outfits or whatever, I can put together a perfect combination without even open my eyes.

I like being in control of what I’m wearing, you know? It’s like you open a magazine and see all of this new shiny stuff that “everyone will purchase this season” while I prefer being me season after season. I’m not a fan of changes. 

When my mom passed away everything change in a heartbeat. Suddenly I couldn’t hear her voice anymore calling me to rush so I wouldn’t miss the School bus, I couldn’t see her laughing, or making me a PB and J with no crust. It is the simple things you missed the most.

You could believe I’m wearing black as an homage to her, but I guess it's more like wearing a protective shield. Since those days every person I knew try to reach to me sympathetically, I quickly rejected that. I became “the girl whose mom died” instead of Allison, Ally, All… I was a walking memorial of the most painful thing I’ve ever live.

Black, matte black, translucent black even some shades of gray or navy blue for those days when I feel outgoing, those are my go-to colors. You can take me for a rocker or a metalhead if you prefer, I couldn’t care less. I just want to be alone for a while. My mom used to call me “Starshine” and see me now, and I became the dark side of the moon, go figure.

It’s not like I want to scare people, it’s just that colors seem so happy and joyful, which I am not right now. Also, colors drive attention, and I have had enough attention for two whole lifetimes. It’s funny how in GOT “taking the black” means to live a life of solitude and sacrifice in a borderline wall that separates everyone from the dangers beyond, the risks and uncertainties that only wildlings, uncivilized people, can endure. I have been through my fair quota of pain, and I’m only 17. I guess I can take the black for as long as I needed.

I remember when I was only Allison, and no one looked at me with grief or sorrow. That’s why I like being an outcast; nobody is there to stare and pity you, I can move on with my life there.

Haven’t you ever feel like you want to vanish and just be yourself again?

Do you think that the clothes a person uses define her/him?

Have you tried new styles recently?

Are you fixated on a particular style of clothing or haircut that brings you back emotions from the past?

Marianne: The Nurse

My name is Marianne, I am 33 years old and my parents, both Irish descendants, passed away. I was left in charge of taking care of the grocery shop they ran, as an inheritance to my brothers and me. About me? What can I say, I'm a school dropout.

I fell in love during my senior year and became pregnant almost immediately. My parents chose to retire me from high school to save me the embarrassment of being pregnant outside marriage, at a very young age, and without their consent. They also forced us to get married, and as a wedding gift, allowed us to live upstairs.

The first time he hit me, our daughter was barely a couple months old. I don't remember if it was because I'd lost my car keys or because I'd left the TV on while breastfeeding the baby. I forgot it because I soon discovered that anything would upset him: The way I dressed, the people I talked to, the milk brand I bought or forgot to buy it at all.

My father died first, and the grieve gave me the strength to get him out of the house. My mother, who had understood the mistake of forcing us to be together, remain silent, resigned to prefer me single than dead She helped me pack his bags. We never heard from him again.

When I was just beginning to thank God for the opportunity to start over again, my mother got sick. After a long illness, during which I take her to the doctor, pick up her prescriptions and change her bandages, I understood that there was a large part of me wanting to help others and wishing to be a nurse. My mother died a year ago.

Things got complicated, and between taking care of my daughter and the pain of losing my mom, I haven't got the chance to sign up for nursing school. Sometimes I would like to leave everything, close the register and get out, live my dreams for once.

But I'm terrified, all those years of feeling that I have no control over my own life, that I'm a useless person who takes the worst possible decisions, have left me felling permanent vertigo on pursuing my dreams.

Can you figure how many people give up their dreams daily because they don't trust themselves to do it? Do you know how many of them will die without even try?  Have you felt paralyzed by your fear of failure? What did you accomplish today in the path to fulfill your dreams? The curious thing about dreams is that even if you must be asleep to have them, the only way to get them done is wide awake.

Pedro, a Mexican Inmigrant.

My name is Pedro. I have 27 years. I came to America 4 years ago carrying nothing more than what I could carry in a BackPack, but my burden was way much heavy than that. When you come from a low-income family in Mexico inevitably, you go through the internal debate between crossing the border or staying at home with your loved ones.

Whoever said that money is not everything in life surely had enough to sit and see life passing by, but when you look at your nephew dying for lacking the money to buy asthma medicine, you see things differently.

I'm from a town near Villahermosa, the capital city of Tabasco. My family and I are descendants of the first settlers in the region, the Olmecs, and just like they were dedicated to pottery. Maybe my vocation was not in making clay jars and jaguars, but family always comes first. Being born practically in the middle of the rainforest doesn't give you many options, it was that or working on a Cacao Farm.

Cacao is what has given more value to the area since ancient days. My mom used to prepare us hot cocoa for breakfast every Sunday. I miss my mother a lot. I'm here for her; it doesn't matter if they call me Beaner or I have to sleep on the streets for a week or two. Every penny saved goes for her. When I talk to her on the phone, sometimes go speechless between the happiness of knowing they are doing O.K. and the sadness of not being able to hold her one more time.

That comforts me every day. Here they say that we steal their jobs, but are they willing to leave their nails off picking tomatoes 12 hours in a row when in season, or oranges, or carrots? Is the same, I came here to work, and that's what I'm doing, nobody says it was going to be easy.

During my first year, I woke up each morning with my hands hurt for sinking my nails into my palm while sleeping. It's hard to live knowing that you are being rejected by almost everyone you bump into, being unable communicate in English, but knowing how to play and sing the most beautiful songs in Nahuatl, or Spanish if you prefer.

I survive the dessert, the coyotes. Some of my best friends didn't. When I feel like I'm going to give up and move back, I remember them and their families; I consider everything I can do from here to help my people. That's another weight on my shoulders, maybe that's why I'm so short. Leaving behind everything you love, everything you know, even your name for a part of the minimum wage is a no-brainer when it comes to saving your family from famishing. For that opportunity, I'm grateful to God, and to this country, every single day.

Are you grateful for the opportunities you've had?

How much time had passed since you tell your family you love them?

Have you given up something to help your family?

How important is your family for you?


Nancy is 73 years old, married to a man 7 years younger than her. At the time, their marriage was a bit of a scandal, but she never thought twice about the age difference.

Now that Nancy is facing growing older, she feels that her husband has not been there for her. Because of arthritis in her hands, Nancy is no longer able to work in the garden as much as she used to or drive around. Rather than helping her, she feels that her husband, who is still in excellent health, has become annoyed by her. She feels afraid of asking him to help her more around the house. Despite her age, Nancy still wants her husband to see her as sexy and independent and she doesn’t feel that asking for help would be beneficial in this realm.

Today, Nancy was unable to open a jar, but was too embarrassed to ask her husband for help. Because she no longer feels comfortable driving and most of her friends are likewise aging, she doesn’t socialize as much as she used to. Nancy realized today that she is becoming depressed, but hasn’t been able to tell her husband, because she doesn’t want to be seen as weak or a burden.

As a child, Nancy’s father never helped around the house saying that it was “women’s work.” Even if her mother was ill, she continued to care for the house and children. Nancy never saw her father care for her mother’s emotional needs, so she never really expected that care from other men in her life.

On the other hand, Nancy’s husband, Rod, was always very attentive to her emotional needs. When she was pregnant, Rod never let her lift a finger around the house. When they moved to Georgia to retire, Rod even built a garden for Nancy to tend.

All this makes Rod’s current neglect of her needs and feelings all the worse. Nancy worries that age has finally caught up to them and Rod now sees her as a burden. Rather than speaking directly to Rod, Nancy has tortured herself with ideas of what Rod might be thinking or doing. She has even begun to worry that he is having an affair with a younger woman.

Have you ever, like Nancy, been too afraid to speak honestly with the people in your life? Have you ever neglected your own needs because you were afraid to ask for help? When have you allowed your fears to get the best of you?


Marta is 20 years old and recently moved to California from Venezuela. Although her two sisters, mother, and father moved to the US with her, most of her family is still in Venezuela and she worries about them every day.

Marta has recently started dating an American boy named Casey. Since she didn’t know anyone when she first moved to the US, Casey, who is 25, became her best friend and boyfriend. Now, Casey’s political beliefs are beginning to be a problem in their relationship.

Casey identifies as a communist, something Marta struggles to understand considering the economic and political situation she just escaped from. Whenever Marta brings up what she has seen in her own country, Casey tells her that she doesn’t understand socialism. Marta feels that this is condescending. In Venezuela, Marta’s father was a surgeon, so Casey tells her she can’t understand because she comes from a privileged family. This is hard for Marta to believe, considering the stories she hears from her family every week.

It has gotten to the point where Marta is offended by the things Casey says to her. To her, Casey is a middle class, college educated white man, so she has trouble seeing the oppression that he claims to have suffered. Meanwhile he tells her, an immigrant from Latin America, that she is too privileged to understand his political beliefs.

Today, Marta and Casey got into another fight about politics. Marta does not know what her political beliefs are, but she feels that Casey is pressing his on her too much. She is eager to learn, but does not feel that she should just believe whatever Casey tells her. When she argues with him or brings up stories from her own past, Casey often becomes frustrated and yells at her, which makes her feel like he does not hear her or respect her. Worse, Casey got into a fight with Marta’s father about politics today too. Marta was taught to respect her parents above all else, so for her this may be the final straw with Casey, although she doesn’t want to admit that politics have come between her and someone that she loves.

Is it ever ok to let politics come between two people? Are Casey and Marta’s issues about politics or respect? When have you failed to respect someone else’s beliefs or experiences? Do you consider compassion to be part of your political values?


Jane is 22 years old and already has two children both under 5 years old. It’s a lot of work and she doesn’t get much help.

After Jane got pregnant in high school at 17, everyone told her that she had ruined her life, and she started to believe them. After graduation, the father of her baby, Jose, married her, and started attending night school while working in an auto parts store. Things were difficult financially, but Jane’s father helped them out with money on the promise that Jane would attend community college once the baby was old enough to go to daycare.

Once the baby was old enough, Jane’s parents offered to pay for daycare or even watch the baby themselves on the weekends, but Jane refused the help and did not want to attend school. After she accidentally got pregnant again, her father stopped speaking to her or helping her with money. This made things even more difficult for herself and her husband, which put a huge strain on their relationship. Jose was almost finished with school, but now has to work 12 hours a day to support Jane and the children. Jane blames herself for the accidental pregnancy.

Jane and Jose both attended private school and come from upper middle class families. Before Jane got pregnant they had never wanted for anything and were both on track to attend college full time. Neither of them has ever had to budget or ask for help before, so they are struggling to make ends meet.

Today, Jane checked her bank account and realized that they do not have enough money for food, diapers, and baby formula. Her only options are to ask for help, but she doesn’t know how; her father had always taught that asking for help was beneath her. Since she is angry with her father, asking her family is out of the question. She knows that Jose’s parents blame her for ruining their son’s future, so she is afraid to ask them too. Her options are now to apply for food stamps or visit a food pantry. She knows if Jose finds out that she has done either he will be furious and blame her for not being able to manage the money that he works so hard for.

When have you been too afraid to ask for help? Are there people who may need your help, but are too afraid to ask? Are you carrying resentments like Jane and Jose’s families?


7 years ago, after 15 years of marriage, Jack decided to leave his wife, Emily, the mother of his two children. His daughters, Carrie and Jessica, were 13 and 11 at the time. Before leaving his wife, Jack had been having affairs on-and-off for almost 5 years; he no longer loved his wife and was sick of living a lie.

At first, his daughters would visit him every weekend, but once he remarried, they came less and less often. Once his new wife, Maria, had a baby, his daughters stopped visiting all together, saying that the baby kept them up at night. Jack believes his daughters resent him for leaving their mother. He is sure their mother has told them about all of the affairs and poisoned them against him.

As a result, Jack is angry at his ex-wife and if he’s being honest, at his daughters too for not being able to see his perspective. After the divorce, Emily invited Jack to family therapy on a number of occasions, but he did not go. Jack thinks Emily purposely scheduled the therapy sessions during working hours to make sure he couldn’t go, another attempt to make him look bad.

Jack hasn’t spoken to either of his daughters in two years. Although he always sends them money on their birthdays and Christmas, he never gets a reply. Today, Emily reached out to let him know that their youngest daughter, Jessica, has a drug problem. The family is planning on holding an intervention for Jessica, and Emily thinks Jack should be there. She believes that Jack’s abandonment of the family is a huge reason that Jessica has turned to drugs. She insists that it will not be possible for Jessica to recover until things have been made right with her father. Emily wants Jack not only to come to the intervention and read a letter to Jessica, she also wants him to attend therapy with the family at least once a week and visit Jessica in rehab on a regular basis.

Jack is in a state of shock. He feels like he has been kept out of the loop for years and now the family wants his help. He also feels that he is being blamed for all of Jessica’s problems when Emily was the one spending most of the time with her. He said he does not want to attend.

Where is Jack’s anger coming from? Does he feel attacked? When have you ever felt attacked? Did you react in a sensible way? What is the best way to respond when you feel like you’re under attack? Next time, will you react the same way?


Charity is 29 years old and a practicing Pagan. She has been a Pagan for almost 10 years, since she first discovered the ancient religion in college. Although she was raised Protestant Christian, Paganism resonates deeply with Charity.

As a child, Charity was sexually abused by her father, which caused a lifelong fear of men. She was drawn to Paganism because of the emphasis on the Mother Goddess and now refers to herself as a goddess worshipper. Her Pagan practice has helped her to embrace her own womanhood and sexuality, two things she once feared, while the meditative aspect of Paganism has helped her to overcome her PTSD.

Because of her childhood abuse, Charity never believed that she could fall in love with a man, but after meeting Allen at a meditation class, she knows what love really is. Allen recently asked Charity to marry him, but there is only one problem, Charity’s religion. Although Allen is not religious, his family is Southern Baptist. If they find out that Charity is not a Christian, they will have major problems. Because they aren’t educated about Paganism, they think that Pagans all practice witchcraft and are going to hell. Making matters more complicated, Allen’s family doesn’t know that he isn’t religious anymore.

To make his family happy, Allen wants to have a traditional Christian wedding ceremony, but this is not the wedding Charity had imagined for herself. Charity wants to have a small ceremony in nature with all of her Pagan friends in attendance and her devotion to the Goddess playing a central role. She is also concerned if she has Allen’s big Christian wedding, his nosy family will raise uncomfortable questions about why her own family is not in attendance. 

Allen has always respected and supported Charity’s beliefs, which is one of the reasons that she fell in love with him; they actually meditate together every morning. Charity isn’t ashamed of her beliefs, but now she feels that Allen is. She feels that Allen needs to stand up to his family and be honest about what he really believes; she doesn’t want to start a life together based on lies and believes this issue will only snowball once they have kids.

How can Charity help Allen to be more honest with his family? Have you ever felt that you had to lie to your family to keep the peace? What prejudices do you have towards other religions? Could you be with someone outside of your religion and the approval of your parents?


Todd is 16 years old and a sophomore in Catholic High School. From a young age, he always knew he was attracted to other boys. Even if he hadn’t known, the jeers and homophobic slurs hurled at him on the playground would have been enough to figure it out. Although Todd knows he’s gay, he has never kissed a boy or talked about it with his family.

Todd is currently taking a course on Catholic morality in school. He has been told that although queer individuals are welcome in the Church, sex with someone of the same gender is not permitted. In fact, it’s a mortal sin. Todd feels that all eyes are on him when the teacher lectures about homosexuality in the Church. Worse, in class the other day, the teacher asked Todd to read aloud a passage from Leviticus in the Old Testament that condemns sexual relations between two men.

Because Todd is still bullied, he feels like everyone is waiting for him to come out of the closet. He had considered telling his mother, but after learning that gay sex is a mortal sin, he’s afraid. His mother is a devout Catholic and he doesn’t want to let her down. Since his father left, his mother has been very emotional, ready to cry at the drop of a hat; she relies on Todd for emotional support and treats him as a confidant, sometimes blurring the lines between parent and child. But he knows if his mother finds out from someone else, she’ll be even more devastated.

One of Todd’s close friends, Rachel, recommended that he speak to the school guidance counselor, but Todd worries that he will just be told more about Catholic theology. Todd feels that he isn’t being seen or heard. His teachers care more about following the rules of Catholicism than his feelings, but he wonders whether he even has a right to be upset. Todd knows that he can live a life of prayer and avoid sexual or romantic relations with another man and still be considered a good Catholic, but he has sexual feelings and a desire to be loved that he can’t deny. Since his father is gone and his mother is not there for him emotionally, he feels the need for companionship even more now. 

What can Todd do to stay true to himself? Is it important that he is honest with his mother? When have you felt that being honest with yourself would hurt other people? What did you do? Have you ever had the feeling that dogma was getting in the way of living your truth?


George is a former finance banker in his 80s. He has been a widower since his 60s when his wife died of breast cancer. He recently fell in love with and married a much younger women, to the outrage of his children. George believes he still deserves love and doesn’t understand the hestiance of his children. Despite his best efforts, his children will not give his new wife a chance; they believe she is taking advantage of him for his money, potentially putting their own inheritance at risk.

George finds this offensive. After a career in finance, he doesn’t believe he can be taken advantage of so easily. He is frustrated that despite his achievements in life, the older he gets, the less seriously people take him. After working at the top of his profession for many years, he’s used to people doing what he says and not questioning his judgement. Now, because of his age, his own family is questioning his ability to make decisions for himself.

Today is George’s birthday and for the first time in years, his children have not come to see him in Palm Beach where he retired and later met his current wife, Cheryl. Each of his four children had a different excuse for why they could not visit on his birthday, but he believes they chose not to visit because they do not approve of Cheryl.

Despite the attention of Cheryl, George finds himself reminiscing about the past. He misses his children and his late wife. With so few years left on this earth, George wonders whether making a decision that upset his children was worth it. After all, he does want to spend more time with his grandkids. But his children are not with him every day, and Cheryl is. Aging is difficult, and when Cheryl is around he is much less grumpy; he wishes his children could see this.

Cheryl believes that George never recovered from the loss of his late wife and should start seeing a therapist, but George doesn’t see how it could help with his current problem.

When have you ever refused to talk about your problems? What George is experiencing is a loss of power, his children no longer listen to him or respect him. When have you ever felt disempowered? Has aging left you feeling like less of your old self? Why is it so difficult for parents and children to see eye to eye? Could therapy help George with his problem?