As is likely true for all of you, I periodically get emails from friends with heart-warming or inspirational messages. Many are very nice. Some of them are treacly, even to the point of being irritating. Now and again I get one that really hits home.
Alice Herz-Sommer, if luck stays with her, will celebrate her 107th birthday on November 26th. She is a concert pianist who still spends hours a day at the piano, goes for long walks, cooks for herself. She is also the oldest living holocaust survivor.
There is a movie about to be released about Alice's life, which explains some of the recent press she has received. A 12 minute video about her became so popular that it risked inundating Alice with unwanted attention, so the video was removed from the internet. A 2 1/2 minute video is still there, which was pretty inspiring in itself.
Alice lost her mother and husband to the World War II holocaust in Germany. She has outlived her only son, who lived long after surviving the nightmare of a concentration camp with his mother years ago. And yet - she is eternally optimistic about life. "Life is beautiful," she says. "I have no space or time for pessimism or hate."
On this website about her life, it says that Alice "knows all too well that hatred eats the soul of the hater, not the hated."
She says that it is music that saved her life, which may be true in practical terms. Perhaps she was useful and entertaining enough to keep alive, since she played many concerts during her internment in the concentration camp. I say that it was Alice's attitude that saved her life, and continues to preserve it after nearly 107 years.
Some scoff at such simplistic notions. Hmph, they grunt. Easy for you to say. How can you just turn off hate? they wonder.
First, you have to try, really hard. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. You have to WANT to let go of hate. Then find what is beautiful, and hold on to that. Love laughter. Be a friend. Then you keep on trying. Repeat as needed.