Finding Connection

Conversations with a teenager

Aunty Jean
3 min readAug 8, 2022
Photo by Josie Weiss on Unsplash

One of my nephews came to stay with me for a week. He was 15 at the time, and we had lived far apart for most of his life. I looked forward to some one-on-one time. I remembered him as a curious 2-year-old. He had the most insightful questions as a toddler. I was delighted to find that he still possessed that same curiosity as a teenager.

I have been a long-time vegan. When he was 15, he loved meat, and I was sure to take him to a steak house. I do not believe in lecturing people on their food choices. I don’t espouse my views on veganism unless I am asked.

He asked.

Ever since I can remember, I had an aversion to animal products. I didn’t want to eat a cow, or a chicken, or a pig. I couldn’t see the difference between those animals and my pet dog. It took me years longer to also realize the sentience of fish, octopi, and shellfish.

I told my nephew about the cruelty of factory farming. How it is simply not true that people need meat to be healthy. And how Native Americans, who at times hunted so as not to starve, gave thanks to the animal for its sacrifice before killing it.

I then explained why, although I care deeply for animals, I don’t preach my message unless asked. It was a lesson from my reading of Thich Nhat Hanh, in speaking about being a wise leader, that I shared with him:

A good leader also has the virtue of loving. You have the capacity to be affectionate, to accept, forgive, and embrace the other person with loving kindness and compassion. When you have this power, you are happy and people respect you — not because you shout at them or scold them, but because you offer care and compassion. People who lack compassion, love, and forgiveness suffer a lot. When you can forgive, when you can accept, you feel light, you can relate to other living beings. Without compassion, you are utterly alone.

When we accept people as they are, when we let them know that our love for them is unconditional, we allow them room to grow.

Now, my nephew asked me more about Thich Nhat Hanh.



Aunty Jean

Constantly curious, dog-loving, anti-racism, politically progressive, book-loving, vegan lady. I want to keep learning every day, exploring other points of view