A Video Worth Watching

 

Every parent wants something special for his or her child. For the father in the movie A Better Life, directed by Chris Weitz, providing opportunities for his child is a point of pride. The story of evolving love between a father and son also puts a human spin on the current U.S. immigration crisis and the families that suffer because of it. As with life, it gets complicated for the pair who must adapt to external changes in the father’s professional situation.

The kind-hearted, hard-working and loving father, Carlos Galindo, played by Demian Bichir, almost never takes advantage of anyone, but is virtually invisible to his son, who lives a sheltered life until unforeseen circumstances catapults the pair into transition. The father’s hardships and struggle to give his son “a better life” ultimately result in an emotional and psychological transformation for the teenager who had previously taken almost everything in his life for granted. The son learns to respect his father for using his kindness and compassion in dealing with others rather than relying on anger and violence, a response to life that the son previously admired and believed to be the solutions to life’s problems. As the pair rides buses around LA, they form a new bond and begin to understand each other, the father’s spirit triumphing over their circumstances, because he refuses to give up, inspiring his son in the process.

While sad and scary at times, A Better Life wields those emotions to reveal things that often remain unseen—like how complicated life can be. The film uses the heart as a lens to provide a cultural commentary on society’s solution to continental migration when it spotlights the gritty insides of a detention center, expanding the story beyond the father-son duo to dwell on the human condition and the plight of families separated by borders. Because of the compassionate realism, A Better Life is a spiritually-uplifting and powerful look at family and society that all adults should see.

Four Great Reasons to Get a Game Night Going

 

 

While I make time to play with children as often as possible, I also love to play games with other adults. This is a time to unwind and let out my stored up sass. The benefits of play are well researched, and game night is one way to make sure you get a free booster shot of psycho-emotional wellness. As a teacher I believe we can only reinvent the world when understand the one we’re living in. This applies to the game of life. I’m almost always open to changing the rules of a game to make it more interesting, challenging or fair. I look at this as an important life skill. It’s agency at its highest potency. Like will power, we can store up skill sets and cash in when the time is right. Can I negotiate the salary I really want? How well am I at playing by the rules? What happens when I don’t get what I want? Games teach us about and help us to improve upon the parts of ourselves that we want to strengthen.

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For starters, game time involves communication. It’s a time for discussing rules, finding answers, problem solving and sharing. A new game usually requires careful reading—often out loud—and lots of review. These are core skills that can be useful when we’re proposing ideas at work or presenting to a room full of strangers. Game time is face time. There’s opportunity to try on different roles and experiment with personality.

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Some games require lots of negotiating skills. Interesting dilemmas come up when you play a game like Settlers of Catan: Should you trade with an opponent? What’s a fair trade? Whose resources should you raid? These are difficult choices that have to be made while directly facing the intended person. These are small, but not insignificant, ways of dealing with confrontation. They are opportunities to get comfortable asking for clarification, explaining complicated ideas, sticking to a hard decision or ditching a game plan that’s not working. These are real life negotiating skills that can toughen us up for when it really counts.

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Learning a new game requires patience. When I first started to play Scrabble as an adult, I thought I was a complete idiot. I no longer think that. Achieving a score of 333 points helped boost my confidence. (I still keep the scrap of paper with my winning score in the Scrabble box in case I need to charge my battery.) Scrabble is a word game, yes. But it’s also a game about strategy and knowing how to use the board to maximize points as much as it is an actual measure of the extent of one’s vocabulary. This mirrors real life. Sometimes half of what’s happening is how you’re using what you’ve got. Sometimes it takes time to see the possibilities in life and to actualize them. One doesn’t always win the first time around.

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Let’s not forget the oodles of fun to be had. There’s often a great deal of storytelling, laughter and sharing involved in a game night. Frequently, we partake of a meal together prior to the game and invest time getting to know each other throughout the play. When you play board games, it’s a time to sit around and share memories and see how others respond to setbacks and understand what makes them laugh. There’s also competition, which I think needs a positive outlet. And, if you’re really enjoying yourself, playing games with friends can also lead to higher levels of serotonin and dopamine in your system. You can start out playing a game and end up contributing to your own emotional and social wellness.