The Other Wes Moore

I can still hear my Oma’s European accent as she said to me at least once a week “you have to have mazal, you have to have mazal.” Sometimes she would say about someone’s success (as only a grandmother could) “he has more mazal than brains!!”. The occasions for these comments varied, but her point was always the same – there are circumstances beyond our control, so that no matter how hard we try, work, and prepare – we need mazal too.

There are fascinating articles by medieval Jewish thinkers trying to explain the concept and practical ramifications of mazal, as discussed in the gemara (yes, mazal is a real concept!) But for this book review I would like to stick with a straightforward understanding of mazal, as my Oma did. Take a moment to think about how much you believe the following areas impact your ultimate successes and failures: Community. Financial security. Family. Friends.

The Other Wes Moore addresses this question by inviting us into the lives of two men. Both were named Wes Moore, and they grew up blocks away from one another. One became a Rhode Scholar, White House Fellow, decorated Veteran, and business leader. The other ended up convicted of murder and lived most of his life serving a life sentence. What factors impacted their different life trajectories?

After the businessman Moore began a correspondence that turned into a friendship with the other Moore, he noted that both men were given several “second chances” in their early years. But, he emphasized, a second chance is only meaningful if it involves a change of circumstance.  

Whether you agree or disagree with Moore’s approach, this true-story-read will stimulate your thinking about your own circumstances and their impact on your life. It will likely, in addition, broaden your lens as you consider those less fortunate.

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