This week, I was planning on reading a book entitled “Tiny Beautiful Things” by Cheryl Strayed. However, I began reading a different book for another class, and discovered that it had great relevance to Psych 401. The book is called “The Other Wes Moore”. It is written by a very educated and successful man named Wes Moore. The book begins with a Baltimore newspaper story about this man being named a Rhode’s Scholar. In that same newspaper, another man from Baltimore also named Wes Moore was in the newspaper for an entirely different reason: he was involved in an armed robbery gone wrong which ended with the death of a police officer. This Wes Moore was sentenced to life in prison.
As the author read this story of the other Wes Moore, he couldn’t help but notice the similarities of their lives. Both men were born into low class families and raised in neighborhoods in Baltimore. As young men, they were both exposed to drugs and violence. However, their life paths greatly deviated despite their similar circumstances, resulting in one man who became a decorated veteran, a White House Fellow, and successful business leader, while the other spent his life falling into the pattern of his peers and living in jail. Intrigued by their stories, the two Wes Moores came in contact and tried to understand how their lives turned out so differently. As they got to know each other and explore each other’s life story, it became clear that the successful Wes experienced change in his life when he joined the military. From there, he began to fall into better patterns of decision-making. However, for the other Wes, change did not come. Instead, he began to deal drugs and fell into a realm of violence, like many of his peers. Although at times he wanted to change, he was pulled back into his old ways because of financial issues or social pressures. Both Wes Moores grew up fatherless, were good students in school, were exposed to violence and drugs, and at times were motivated to change. One was never inherently better than the other, yet one grew up to be incredibly successful while the other not so lucky.
This story had me thinking, what makes up a person? Is it the choices we make? Or the social environment around us? What about the characteristics we are born with? There are so many elements that can dictate the life path we go down and it is often very hard to understand them. It is even harder to understand why some things happen that are beyond anything in our control. The idea that we all have a purpose and a life plan dictated by a higher-power, a loving being, can help explain some of these inexplicable events and may provide some comfort.