The Chosen by Chaim Potok

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In the beginning, it was difficult to see where the author was going with the story.  I read four chapters before I understood the plot.

The setting of the story is Brooklyn, New York, during the early 1940’s.  The main characters are teenage boys named Danny and Reuven.  Both boys come from Jewish families; however, Danny is an ultra-orthodox Jew and his father would normally not allow Danny to hang out with Reuven.

The boys got to know each other after a baseball game.  Reuven was pitching and Danny hit the ball straight into Reuven’s face.  Since Reuven was wearing glasses, he needed surgery to remove glass from one of his eyes.

Danny felt horrible about the accident and would visit Reuven at the hospital.  At first Reuven had no desire to befriend Danny, but Reuven’s father thought it was important for the boys to become friends.  He told Reuven, “The Talmud says a person should do two things for themselves.”  The first was to find a teacher and the second was to find a friend.

Eventually, a friendship developed between the boys.  It required a lot of work and things didn’t always go smoothly.

The story teaches us a lot about the benefits of friendship and the importance of maintaining a friendship even when it is difficult.

Even though the book had a slow start, I did enjoy reading it and gained some perspective on the value of friendships.

 

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

At times, War Horse was a bit difficult to read.  I wanted to reach into the story, grab a few of the characters, and whack them on the head for being cruel or ignorant.  However, all in all it is an excellent story.

The book takes a hard look at dealing with adversity, how friendships help with overcoming struggles, the tenacity required to fight for someone you love (even if your efforts seem wasted), and it explores the power of the human-animal bond.

This is definitely a book worth reading.

 

Happy – A Documentary

“The constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness.  You have to catch it yourself.”  Benjamin Franklin

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This documentary is available on Netflix.  It takes an in depth look at what makes people happy and how we can improve our own happiness.

Here are a few things from the documentary that I found to be interesting:

  • Dopamine is a chemical in the brain and it is a neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy.  Physical activity releases dopamine, so engaging in exercise is a natural mood booster.
  • Events have a limited impact on our happiness.  When something good happens, we may feel ecstatic.  However, those feelings will dissipate quickly.  When something bad happens, we may feel devastation, but those feelings will also dissipate.
  • A key ingredient to happiness is being able to recover from adversity quickly.
  • Once our basic needs are meet, an increase in income has a limited affect on our level of happiness.
  • You will always be able to find somebody that has more money than you or that has something you don’t have.  A constant desire for more will have a negative impact on our happiness.
  • The more people focus on money and image the less happy they feel.
  • The more people focus on relationships, personal development, and community service the happier they feel.
  • Changing your focus from what you don’t have to what you do have that you can share, will promote happiness.
  • The building blocks of happiness are play, new experiences, and relationships.

Take time to do something that makes you happy today.