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By Robert Israel
She wanted a boyfriend, to boast about it to her mother, to shut her up once and for all. Her mother had a boyfriend, her brother was married and her father was remarried. She lived alone with her cat. She was the only one without someone. Her mother was incessantly badgering her about it.

Faced with a summer break and no boyfriend, she booked passage with her mother to Italy, a mother-daughter trip, a chance to get away from a boyfriendless life.

They arrived in Florence cranky from the long trip. They checked into the hotel and found a church where they spent time admiring the frescos. They stopped at an outdoor café and her mother ordered an espresso, …

By Robert Israel

She called at the appointed time after registered for the counseling fee through the online service. Twenty minutes into the hour-long session, she said she was astonished by my feedback.

"You figured me out," she said. "No one's done that before. I mean, you have me pegged."

"This isn't about pegging you," I said. "I'm supposed to pay attention."

"But you figured me out quickly."

I told her I am not a sideshow clairvoyant but a professional who is paid to be a keen listener who pays attention to what's being said, and, equally as importantly, what's being left out.

There was a time during my training, I told her, when I was assigned to …

Thank you. The person that I am today would not exist without you. Though plenty of you have not been in my present life does not mean that our relationships never happened. Thanks to those who were in my life helped lead me to the semi-independent person that I currently am.
An intense (dark) feeling takes over me when you cross my mind. Each time I am never sure which shade of happiness this feeling is. All that I know is that it happened and parts of me wishes that most it didn’t.
Most of these feelings occur when I start to ponder my past high school experiences. I’ve gone to three high schools: Sparks, Reno, back to Sparks and now to Wooster. Switching …

Watch me live in recovery
what is there to look forward to
if full recovery is not possible?
I am self destructive
and hope doesn’t exist for me
because I am an addict

My desire to use is overpowering
go to meetings…get a sponsor
the 12 Steps scare me to death
I cry out but no one hears me
isolation, deception, and lies define me
I feel despicable and worthless

Freedom is a pipe dream
this is no way to live or die
triggers are everywhere
I will not be satisfied …
until I find a way to use again
because I am an addict

I am alone and anxious
I dream of ways to find relief
I remember …

Dear Molly,

Today we are celebrating your 18th birthday…and I am celebrating you and the extraordinary young woman you have become. Do you remember the story of The Red Thread? According to an ancient Chinese proverb, an invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break. I believe our Red Thread is a result of divine providence. At a time when I desperately needed to be a mother and you desperately needed a forever family…Jehovah provided.

From the very first time I laid eyes on you I knew you were special. When I walked into the room at the Office of …

He sat slumped over on a couch in a Back Bay apartment overlooking the grimy Gainsborough Street alley, his eyes pushed upwards in his sockets, and he was gone, off on a journey from which he’d never return.

We crammed into a borrowed car for the drive down from New Hampshire for a long weekend of drinking. Someone had given him a pill. And then everything changed. By the time I drove us back to Manchester in the hung-over grayness of the next day, he was physically with us but his silence was unlike him, and we were all too stunned to break that silence, too unformed in our youthfulness to question it, or to offer insight or an intervention.

We sobered …

I parked the car underneath the pine trees. Mario was beside me, David in the back. The street was calm, it was just after Christmastime, a dusting of snow on the lawns, an occasional blinking of lights overhead as jets circled the airport nearby.

We waited. No cars approached. Mario’s uncle told him, these people across the way, and the family next door in the yellow ranch, they went off together on a cruise ship, they won’t be back until New Year’s.

“A sure thing,” Mario said.

“Nah,” David said.

“Trust me,” Mario said.

“Nah,” David said. “Let’s use the pay phone.”

So we walked to Main Street and called the homes. No answer.
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I was supposed to bring all my friends to whitney.

it was something i thought i knew i would always do. here’s whitney, here’s whoopi, here’s hillary, here’s julie, fuck, here’s rosie or kathy.

nothing / about it / is / delusional.

it is the light — the light i will someday tell you all about; I’ve almost always seen it.

I’ve been fighting to bring back the michael korte i think i knew everyone loved. he was unidentifiably oh so different / but gleaming.

i have been so buried by every passing day. growing up and realizing …

I run the Million Person Project, which is all about stories. On a regular basis I sit with people and ask them to close their eyes and think back to the major turning points in their lives, the ones that brought them to what they do today. I ask them to think back to what led them to the path to becoming a “changemaker.” A lot of times people tell me that they don’t have a good story. I interrupt and insist that everyone has a good story and every good story is valuable. And after doing the storytelling workshop with 625 people over the past four months, I believe in the value of good stories more than ever. And herein lies my big …

It wasn't until May 6, 2011, five days after Cooper was born, that I really thought about how much of an effect I have had on my parents’ lives. I went over to Jake and Lauren's house, which was now a home for three, to meet him. As I walked in I could feel just how significantly everything had changed. Jake and Lauren had created, out of nowhere, one of the most important people in their lives. I sat there with a tiny Cooper in my arms and wondered how he would change Jake and Lauren. I wondered what kind of friend he would be to his Mom and Dad. I wondered if his perspective on the world would change theirs. I wondered if …

Julian looked completely defeated when he walked into the hotel room. He fell back onto the bed. I had five minutes left on a skype call. I mouthed, “Are you okay?” He shrugged. He looked like he was about to cry. I told him I’d be off in five minutes. He heaved a big sigh and laid back.

“What happened?” I asked frantically as I hung up my call.

He didn't respond.

“Did you get robbed? Did you get lost? What happened?” I was really worried.

“It's just so bad out there,” he said, sounding pissed.

“What was bad?” I asked.

He shook his head. “All of it.”

“Did you visit the orphanage? Did you meet Winnie?” …

Julian and I are a team and our project and workshops are designed to reflect that. So the first time I had to run the workshop without him I was really nervous. I was in Northern Uganda. A girl I had met, who was a Peace Corps volunteer, had invited the Million Person Project up to do a workshop with those who were affected by the recent war with the Lord’s Resistance Army. The young people she worked with either had lived in refugee camps or had been child soldiers. Together, they were creating events for Peace Day - when everyone in their community would come out and spend the day sharing food and talking about forgiveness. Sacha, a volunteer for the Million Person Project, …

The sun was setting and we were tired from a long day of meeting with farmers in John's village. Most of the homes in the village were mud huts and didn't have any furniture in them besides a bed. But one of the leaders in the village had a bigger hut, with two couches, so John suggested we go there to rest for a bit before the storytelling campfire began.

There were six or seven kids hanging around in front when we arrived. We greeted them, then John led me and Julian through the door. The three of us plopped down on the couches. I was really thirsty so it was nice to just relax and catch my breath for a minute. There …

We met Mario on his birthday. We all happened to leave our hostel at the same time, on our way to the beach, so the three of us decided to go together.

Julian ran straight into the water, I set up my sunbathing area, and Mario stood in his speedos, flirting with some sixty-something Barcelonian ladies who were tanning nearby. He was friendly beyond belief. His Italian accent was as thick as they come, and every one of his words was accompanied with a wild hand gesture.

The women, with their big-brimmed sun hats, threw their heads back in laughter; they were flattered. They told him they were too old for him. I was laying there with a t-shirt protecting my face …

I love to listen to monks chant. It fascinates me. I will travel far and wide to go and hear chanting. That is why I was really excited when I found out that 15 miles from where we were holding a workshop in Vietnam there was a Pagoda that did a special chanting ritual on Wednesday mornings.

On Wednesday, Julian and I had got up early, rented a motor scooter, and rode 15 miles up a mountain in central Vietnam to an absolutely beautiful Pagoda. I sat on the steps and listened to them chant; I debated on whether or not I should take a picture.

They just kept chanting on and on. It was dead silent out there aside from …

You can get in auto-pilot after seven years in a relationship. I guess you can go into auto-pilot with any friend you’ve known forever, or with your family. You can start to assume you know what the person’s every move is going to be and how they are going to act in any given situation. Julian and I do it to each other. For instance, the other day I was getting into the driver’s seat and Julian said, “Here, let me drive, you don't like to drive at this time of day.” It's true, I don't really like to drive at that time of day because there are too many cars, but I stood there holding the keys thinking, 'Well maybe I do like …

It was New Years Eve. We set aside the whole day to meet with John, but when we called he said he wasn't feeling well. He had malaria, and it was acting up that day. Julian was on the phone with him, suggesting we come another day, but I heard John insist we come over anyway. He said he’d just shut his eyes while he waited for us.

As we drove up a steep dirt road to John’s house, Robert's taxi bottomed out and got stuck. He had carefully tried to navigate around the massive ravines, carved out by the rain, but his tires slipped and spun and the car stopped. Julian and Robert pushed the cab and I sat in the back …

As we wandered the streets of Hue, our conversations were peppered with, “No, no thank you”-s. We couldn't seem to get across to the rickshaw drivers offering us a ride that we were out on a walk. Every block or two we would get caught up with a driver who positioned his rickshaw in front of us to stop us in our tracks and offer us a ride. We joked with the drivers a bit, asked questions, and said things like, “You think you could really pedal us around in that? We're too big, aren't we?” We were definitely too big and definitely not interested in being the giant tourists overflowing out of rickshaws in the middle of Vietnam's traffic; so we just kept the …

[A photo of Julian and I leading our workshop in the most beautiful setting ever]

It didn’t happen often, but occasionally in our workshops we would ask for volunteers to share their stories, and not a single person would raise their hand. I stood before the room during one of those moments, waiting for the courage to break open inside of someone. I knew there were lots of furiously beating hearts and sweaty palms. I also knew that some people, with those frantic heartbeats and sweaty palms, were also almost bursting off the edge of their seats to get up and share. They just needed a minute.

We were in an open-air gazebo at the Ndali Lodge in Uganda. It …

I saw her in the corner. She was bent over the bar. There were four or five men around her. Her head flopped back, her eyes rolled up and I could see that she was on a lot of drugs. She pressed her butt into one man’s groin. The other men gave each other a sloppy cheers, laughing and watching closely and their friend rubbed himself on her. My back tensed up, I felt like my heart might beat out of my chest. Rage.

I walked over towards the group, ordered a drink and scanned the situation to see if there was a way to connect with her. The jar of straws was right by her. I reached out to tap her arm to …
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