Great literature has the power to rouse even the weariest of souls. For as long as language has existed, humans have used its power to reinforce people’s hearts and minds, even in the darkest of times. Many books have become truly iconic due to their ability to inspire people, but several of these tomes truly shine, and provide life-affirming wisdom.
THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN
Mitch Albom is an American author who has written several best-selling books. His novels invoke deep thought about the nature of life, humanity, faith, and the effects of our choices. He is famous for his works “Have a Little Faith” and “Tuesdays with Morrie,” but his most outstanding and popular work is “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” This story follows a veteran, Eddie, who feels uninspired and bored with his life. He dies while trying to save a young girl, only to discover that heaven consists of meeting five people whose lives he has impacted or whose lives have affected him. He is able to realise that even things he had dismissed were important. “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” reminds you that no deed is too small to make a difference. This is a comfort in a world often dominated by large gestures.
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE SOUL
“Chicken Soup for the Soul” is a popular anthology written by hundreds of people from around the world. This is, perhaps, what makes it most striking: rather than being one long inspirational tale, each book is packed with dozens of stories, each more touching than the last. Its name reflects its mission: to warm and comfort the souls of all those who read it. Due to the overwhelming success of the book, many different editions have been released, including those for teens, parents, prisoners, and those going through tough times. The series has expanded to include over 200 titles, and continues to blossom. These personalized editions make the messages contained within even more appealing. Readers will take comfort in knowing that others feel what they feel.
THE LAST LECTURE
Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie Mellon University who taught computer science. Pausch discovered that he had late-stage pancreatic cancer, a disease that is not only nearly impossible to catch early, but difficult to treat as well. He was quite young and otherwise healthy. Their attempts to stop the cancer from spreading failed, and Pausch decided to live out the rest of his life in peace, rather than attempting to fight it. Pausch gave a lecture called “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” but it became commonly known as “The Last Lecture.” Pausch then wrote a book with the same title. In it, he discussed how he still looked and felt largely healthy and how he kept from being overwhelmed by death. The book focuses on Pausch’s three surviving children, giving them inspiration, hope, and advice for the future. This man showed remarkable composure and courage in the face of his own mortality, which will surely encourage readers to do the same.
I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS
Maya Angelou, one of modern literature’s most famous and admired poets, wrote “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” in the late 1960s. Although Angelou was only just 40 when she wrote the book, she had already lived a supremely interesting life. It is the first of six books, and is an important coming of age story. Maya writes about her life from when she is three to when she turns seventeen. This autobiography is so vital because it accomplishes many things at once. It is an accurate depiction of Angelou’s life, but critics have agreed that her character serves to represent all young black girls. She describes racism and condemns it at the same times, which made it an important work in the civil liberties movement. It also addresses themes such as childhood rape, abuse, and sexuality. It is taught in schools to this day due to its continuing relevance for young people.
Elie Wiesel’s haunting work “Night” follows his experiences with his father in the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Buchenwald during World War II. Wiesel, who had previously been devoted to his religion and his family, grows to hate God and humanity. “Night” remains an enduringly popular work because it is gripping, harsh, and real. It shows humans at their ugliest and most evil – the Nazis – but also at their strongest, as in the case of Elie, who lives. Wiesel wrote two more works describing his recovery, but “Night” is all the more potent because it does not really describe what happens to him. The reader is left wondering if Wiesel survives as a human, not just as a body. “Night” is a strong warning against prejudice, racism and hatred, even on small scales. Readers cannot help but realise how important tolerance for one another really is.
Literature continues to affirm who humans are, as well as what inspires them and what challenges them. These five works are crucial for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of themselves, and of others.
This article was contributed by lovereading.co.uk/
“We knew the day would come, we knew what we had to do. What we didn’t know is what it would mean to you.” — adoptive mother’s thoughts
My husband bravely began the conversation saying he wanted to tell our son the story of when he was born and how we all found each other. He explained that Mommy and Daddy had been married for a very long time, a time came when we began looking for him. He asked our son if he knew what the word adopted meant. He did not answer but we could see the conflict in his face. It seemed to say, ‘I have heard the word, I know it’s referred to me somehow, but I don’t know what it means.” My husband told him that adoption meant we all came together in a very special way.
We explained that babies grow in a woman’s stomach for a long time, then when the time is right they go to the hospital and come out from inside the woman and they are born into the world.
I told him on the day that he was born we were called to the hospital to meet him. We each held him close and loved him. This brought a big smile to his face.
Then came the questions…
“Did I come from your tummy?” he asked looking directly at me. I answered, no that he did not. He came from another woman’s tummy.
He asked who was sick? (Why were we all in the hospital?) We explained babies are mostly born in hospitals.
He asked, “Was my other Mommy and Daddy sick?” We simply answered, “No”
Lastly he asked, “She gave me to you?” We said “Yes, and we have been your Mommy and Daddy every day since. He smiled.
We could see and feel an understanding from him almost an acknowledgment of something he had already considered. His love never wavered, he looked at us with his loving eyes and smile and said, in perfect four year old fashion, “Let’s Play!”
This was the first conversation of what we know will be many to come. We were a bit euphoric when it was done. Perhaps we now felt completely free to be the family we are. It is a choice every adoptive family makes. It was recommended in our adoption training that we tell him from his earliest days,“his story.” We did this for a limited time, then took a break around the time he was three while we were establishing and nurturing a loving, trusting relationship with him.
He recently turned 4 years old. We had a strong sense that the time was right. We feel he deserves to be aware of who he is and where he came from. We also want him to love and trust in us, so for our family his truth will be our way.
One of the things I am happiest about is that though this was an emotional experience for us to have, it did not have to be so for our son. There is much value in life to keeping it simple. Though we did require him to understand the human birthing process (smile) we did not require him to understand his entire situation and the details of it. He simply now understands that he was adopted or (given) to us and we are his Mommy and Daddy. Over our many tomorrows he will learn his entire story, today I am just glad we have all turned the first page.
Having been frustrated beyond measure with the airline industry, for my latest trip I looked for other travel options to our destination. I chose to take the Amtrak Train. What a wonderful surprise this turned out to be. Here is a brief review of what it’s like to take a train these days.
When we arrived at the train station there were security guards present outside of the station, one was a canine unit. That was the extent of security beyond showing my ID when I got my ticket. It was so refreshing not to start our journey with the usual terse security assault we are now accustomed to in airports.
We were particularly late, cutting it very close to departure time. We found the people at the station to be extremely helpful and caring, radioing ahead that we were on our way. Trains are very time focussed and take their schedules seriously. When it¹s all aboard the train is moving out! In fact, there was someone directly behind us that did not make the train. This is not advised travel practice by any means, being there at least 30 min. before departure is suggested.
Getting on and off the train is a cinch. Employees are at the platform to direct you to your car. You provide your ticket, board the train and stow your luggage right inside the door. Once you are sorted it’s off to find your seats. Once your seats are located, you place a colored strip of paper given to you above your chairs and that’s it, you are free to explore.
The train is mostly coach cars with the following exceptions. Bathrooms and handicap coaches are on the bottom. The upper decks are where coach seating is located. There is a wonderful observation car in the middle of the train that has tables, booths and great seats that face the large landscape windows. I found the train to be a very social experience. People are meeting and conversing with one another or using tables for games, electronics etc. Power outlets are both at the tables and at each coach seat making electronic device very useful on the train, however it does not provide Wi-fi.
Beyond the observation car is the formal dining car. It is nicely placed with white table tops, silver and flower¹s on the table. Wine and beer are available with meals. To my delight, the food was delicious. A dinner menu example included pork shank, cedar planked salmon and NY steak. On our trip we had dinner and breakfast. I ordered breakfast out of boredom and was surprised when it was quite good. I am a big egg critic and the scrambled eggs were a nine! The price for dinner was moderate to high cost, but worth the experience. Breakfast was much more reasonable, real butter with my croissant was a bonus!
It is very clearly explained that the dining room has community seating and groups of three or less will be sitting with other passengers. My son found this quite exciting, eager to see who would sit with us at breakfast as they had the night before. I was surprised when I was told they only accepted cash at breakfast. Every other cost on the train could be purchased using a card.
Tip: Always good to have a little cash on hand.
If the dining room seems a bit much for you the well equipped snack car is found below the observation car. They serve all beverages including wine and beer and assorted other packaged snacks including sandwiches, burritos, pizzas. They also have several booths for sitting in outside of the tiny snack shack. These are less known and often available when the observation car is full. We took advantage of a booth and used it for craft time, which took up a good hour!
“This is a train not a plane.” This quote came over the intercom many times as a humorous reminder that passengers are encouraged to get up out of their seats and explore and mingle. How refreshing!
One of the best parts of the trip are the people. In general, passengers had a friendly and inquisitive nature. At no time did I feel concerned or threatened for our safety or even that of our belongings. Passengers seemed eager to meet one another and share about their own journey, help each other where needed and generally just a good sense of community which in travel these days seems a bit of a rarity.
The only change I would make for future trips would be to spring for the extra expense of a roomette. This provides the traveler with a private room for traveling that turns into 2 beds for sleeping. It¹s an additional cost, but it includes all meals in the dining car. I traveled with my 3 year old son. He was able to sleep on the floor which provided me with both seats to sleep on. It was doable but not a good night¹s rest and perhaps the only time I was concerned. I was worried my son would wake in the night and didn’t want him to move, so I slept with my leg across to the footrest of the chair in front of us.
The conductors provide a pillow for each traveler which was nice, but I was very glad to have brought thin blankets and extra pillows. The train was quiet and felt safe overall throughout the night.
One slightly humorous tip I will share. At one point late in the night I urgently needed to use the restroom. There was a young couple very much in love in seats across from me. I thought they would be safe to keep an eye on my sleeping child while I speedily went to the bathroom. When I asked them to keep watch of him they eagerly shook their heads but seemed surprised. It was not till the next morning I realized they did not speak much English at all. So good tip, make sure the people you have watch your child speak the same language just in case there were to be a problem.
Of course one of the best parts to any train ride is the countryside. It seems you see the country from the back side rather than the front and all the treasures that are hidden from other forms of travel. Window are large, seating is comfortable and many different seats are accessible for different points of view.
Tip: If you really want to assure yourself of a quality spot in the observation car, go to your original seats, clip the slip of paper above them, and then go immediately to the observation car.
There is a sub-culture you are aware of when riding the train. One of our oldest forms of travel provide passengers with a relaxed and open way to travel. The only time I saw personnel from the train be anxious or perhaps terse was with the schedule. You do not get off the train unless it is a fresh air stop. If you choose to do so they make it very clear this will be your final destination. When the conductor’s say All Aboard! they mean it. They give the all clear and the train is instantly in motion again on to the next stop.
Cost was the biggest incentive for me to choose the train. We traveled from Portland, Oregon to Oakland, California.
Planes: two adults (no price cut for children ages 2+) tickets to San Francisco would have been $700 with 13 hours of travel time on the plane. In past years this was at most a 2hr flight. Now you must change planes in either Phoenix or Las Vegas making each leg over 6hrs. On the plane you are not encouraged to move anywhere, in fact if I remember correctly they do not even allow people to stand next to the bathrooms anymore.
Trains: Our tickets cost $300 round trip for myself and my son (his ticket was half the price as mine) we had a total of 32 hours travel time. Obviously time is what you give up when traveling by train but the comfort level while traveling makes this very doable. I went for the thriftiest option and chose not to get the roomette, if I had upgraded it would have been about the same price as our plane tickets.
Taking the train proved to be a fantastic choice for us and provided quite an adventure for my son who is a huge fan of trains. I think this is by far the most comfortable way to travel and provided us many opportunities to explore the world and bond together.
It felt good to make another choice for travel this time. Thanks Amtrak for a great trip. Airlines take notice, I am sure I¹m not the only one making other choices for travel and taking my hard earned money elsewhere.
I am in wonder today at the thought of “growing up, letting go” the complexity of four simple words and how they morph and remain with us our entire lives.
This morning I was putting away dishes. I went to put away my favorite baby dish. I loved it for the functionality, it is plastic, the bottom comes apart for cleaning, one side was raised to help scoop food with utensils, the base was solid and could not be knocked over, it was tough enough to withstand the rare throwing onto the floor. I am happy every time I see it, remembering all it had been through. Those years required by a child to go from cave baby, to mastering all the techniques of eating food and learning all of the social expectations we require at mealtime.
I put the bowl in its regular spot, suddenly I realized it had to go. It was taking up valuable real estate and no longer fit in the “big boy” world we are now living in. So I took it out, for a second I thought fancifully about its next home. Cracked and worn, I came back to reality and knew the garbage would be its next home. Hit with a pang of sadness it actually took my own will to put it in the garbage. You know what came next…that immense feeling of loss. The one strangers feel compelled to share with you when they see you with an infant or toddler. “Enjoy each moment, it goes by so fast.” or “I remember that stage, treasure it.” These sentiments go on and on from all directions, family, friends and especially strangers. I must admit even I have given the “wise” advice.
Very early on I decided to take this advice. I would embrace every stage and aspect of this treasured time. As stages were coming to an end I wanted to be grateful for them, but also eager to move on to the benefits of the next stage. Basically have a positive attitude rather than one of loss. I have been rather successful in this, but alas perhaps it is inevitable. Putting the bowl in the garbage was the final goodbye to my baby boy. I am crying and indulging myself in the fast forward movie in my mind of his life thus far. At the end of the beautiful film we are back to the beginning thought, time for Mommy to dry the tears, grow up with my son and know that another “letting go” will be around the next bend. I am continuously learning what a fundamental part of love this is, no matter how good it is, eventually it comes with letting go and moving on. It is safe to assume if you have loved you have dealt with these emotions.
What surprised me, was seeing my son experience these feelings at such a young age. We struggled with potty training in our house for some time. We spent months going back and forth. Everyone was frustrated. One day we were hanging out on the kitchen floor and began one of our many “potty” talks. This one took a monumental shift when he asked, “If I use the potty and not diapers then I am not your baby anymore, right Momma?” A heartbreaking tear slipped down his cheek. As I recovered my breath, I gathered him up and held him tight and told him he was right, he would no longer be a baby, but would be a big boy. I further explained all the exciting things that he would get to do as a big boy and of course told him he would always be “Momma’s baby boy.” It is a special gift Mommy’s get to keep in their hearts. This seemed to help him, before I knew it we were back to playing and talking about some of those big boy plans. From that day forward he worked on it consistently, not too long after he was potty trained.
I am glad for my decision to look at changes and stages in a positive light. I see that I am able to give him this gift at such a young age, knowing he will need it for the rest of his life.
I spent a lot of time trying to protect him from the pain of loss and some of the harsh realities of life. I found being honest with him about the reality of loss is important. Acknowledging his feelings and allowing him to feel pain is so difficult to do, but so worthy. Drying his tears and helping him look forward, I hope seals the deal to providing a healthy perspective to loss and moving beyond it in a positive way, for both of us.
I wondered how my family would respond to this newly found opportunity I had. Our son is almost four years old, I have been fortunate to be home with him and enjoy practically every minute of his young life. I was not left wondering for long. A few weeks in, I had some deadlines to meet that required quite a bit of uninterrupted time to work. I had about an hour left of work when our son took Daddy by the hand and told him he needed help with a project.He told him exactly all the materials he needed. After all was collected he asked James to write a message for him. My husband came to let me know Price had something special he would like to give me.
My darling three year old did not act out, throw fits or refuse to eat because Mommy was not paying attention to him.
He made me a book, just like the one I told him I was working on.
These are pictures of the cover and first page.
I wish you weren’t busy because I want to play with you.”
Boo Hoo, Price
My work was complete. He and I spent the next hour being Batman and Robin dealing with a huge storm front approaching, threatening the town and all it’s people! It was up to us to save the day!
Balance is so important and such an illusion. It is what I will continue to achieve as a wife, mother, friend and now author.