Columnist

Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski is the founder and director of the Washington Health System Teen Outreach. She responds to 6–8 questions from young people daily and has written 'Ask Mary Jo' since 2005.

I was honored to receive more than 40 texts or calls from young people from Jan. 6 through Jan. 8. I scheduled and held four emergency zoom calls in addition to the two we host daily for teens. These are two of those young people’s words, printed by request.

Q. I could not sleep last night. I kept seeing the men with the horrible Auschwitz Camp shirts. I’m Jewish. I could not believe it. I was even more shocked when I goggled the meaning of “6MWE,” which stands for “6 Million Wasn’t Enough.”

I felt like throwing up.

I told my dad I wanted to move out of the country. He tried to make me feel better. He said he has faith in America. I got all upset and yelled at him. I told him, if my great grandma hadn’t left Germany in 1933, he wouldn’t have been born. I told him he needed to find the courage to get us out. Now I feel horrible. My dad was upset watching the news, too. There was no reason to get mad at him. I just am frightened. I want to be a writer someday, but I don’t want to be another Anne Frank. Thanks for listening. How can I apologize to my dad?

14-year-old

Mary Jo’s Response: Your fear and anger are normal. You are right, those shirts are horrible. You are worthy of so much more. I think your dad understands. You were upset. When we are upset and we feel powerless, we often show anger to those closest to us – our families and our friends.

Find time to talk with your dad. Share the way you feel now. Explain your fear. I am sure he will listen and hear you. It is important to release anger and anxiety. Keeping it inside only makes it worse.

There are many organizations standing for human rights in our nation. Your dad may know some you can access online. It may ease your mind to read about people fighting to prevent Nazi Germany from happening here. It may also help to follow the progress of FBI and law enforcement groups to protect us. Like your dad, I have faith in our nation.

You deserve to be safe in your home and in our country. Continue to share your feelings. I am deeply sorry you had such a negative experience.

Q. Thanks for printing this. After our conversation Wednesday, I asked if I could write my thoughts for your column. My thoughts got long. It seems I’ve written an op-ed!

I was so happy voting this year. I turned 18 in the spring and registered. I researched the candidates and made my best choice. I voted by mail because we live with my gramma and she’s at high risk for COVID. She’s taking chemo for leukemia. My gramma knows someone who died from COVID-19, so we take her risk very seriously.

I love her a ton. We have this thing we’ve said since I was a little kid, “I love you the sun and the moon and the stars.” It sounds silly now that I’m grown, but it’s really true. I do love her. She’s always been there for me.

When my high school closed in the spring and we did virtual graduation, I was sad, but I understood. My parents can both work from home, so we isolated. I made it through the entire summer by taking early college classes online and keeping in our bubble. When my college started in the fall, I elected to do all my classes virtually to help protect my gramma. It’s not such a big sacrifice if I can keep her safe.

Now I’m upset and angry. My parents and gramma and I did everything right when we voted. We were so incredibly careful with signatures. I know for a fact our votes were not fraudulent. Then … this was my very first presidential election and some politicians tried to say our votes were not OK. At my very first election, people tried to disenfranchise my vote.

Gramma says, ‘this too shall pass’ and I’m young and I must not lose faith. She is a great church person, although she prays at home right now and watches our church’s virtual service. I watch with her. Gramma has faith in our country.

I find myself wondering, did the people who claim my vote was fraudulent think for one minute about me? Or about my gramma? My vote counts! Thanks for letting me vent. I didn’t get to be a peer educator with you or even your student because I live far away, but I follow you on social media and took a chance to message you. I’m really glad I did.

18-year-old

Mary Jo’s Response. Venting is important. It is my pleasure to give you this opportunity to share your thoughts.

Your gramma sounds like my father. He said, “this too shall pass” at every crisis. Get involved in your community. Turn your anger into service. Listen and learn.

I applaud your devotion to your grandmother and your sacrifices. I hope you can return to in-person classes soon. May school go well. Feel free to continue connecting with me.

Have a question? Send it to Dr. Mary Jo Podgurski’s email podmj@healthyteens.com.

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