Alice Herz Sommer is a remarkable woman. She is a Jewish holocaust survivor who in spite of her experiences has an incredibly positive view on life. This 13 minute video was filmed in London 3 weeks before her 108th birthday!
The narrator makes a powerful claim that “Alice experiences more joy in an average day than most people experience in a lifetime!” She was apparently swimming everyday until she was 97 and even now practices the piano 3 hours a day.
As I watched the video it struck me how happy and cheerful she continues to be in spite of her past and her current frailty.
What is the secret to happiness for this remarkable woman? Alice attributes it to two lessons her mother taught her:
1. Complaining does not change people or circumstances.
2. Learn to be thankful for even the apparently smallest of things.
The following simple comments by Alice are, in the light of her age and experience, a powerful challenge to all of us no matter what our personal context:
“I know about the bad things, but I look to where it is good.”
“I never hate. We are all sometimes good and sometimes bad.”
On being asked, did you not have pain when you were in the concentration camp?
“I was always laughing. We were laying for 2 years on the floor with my son and he saw me laughing. How can a child not laugh when the mother laughs?”
Alice attributed a lot of her ability to cope through her circumstances to her opportunities to play music: “When we can play, it can’t be so terrible.”
“Sometimes it happens that I am thankful to have been there – because I am richer than other people. My reaction to life is very different. People complain, ‘this is terrible.’ Its not so terrible.”
This powerful video illustrates how happiness (or maybe we should call it joy) does not have to depend on circumstances. Rather it is a choice. For me it is a sober, but also heart-touching reminder that I have a lot more control of my feelings and emotions than I think I have or rather tell myself that I have.
(For more on the role of choices see the posts The Importance of Right Attitude Part 1 and How Do I Cope with Stress in my Life? Part 4. A video on my own struggle with depression and negativity in my life is available here).
For more details about Alice and a recent film that has come out about her see here.
How does this video speak to you? What thoughts or comments particularly speak to or resonate with you?
It would be great to have your thoughts and comments below