: Mitch Albom’s “Have a Little Faith: A True Story” (Hyperion). It is Albom’s story of his interaction with two religious figures -- a rabbi and a pastor, one white, one black; one drawing him back to his childhood congregation in New Jersey and the other to the inner-city of Detroit where he now lives. One dying, the other reborn.
Albom describes his life before he started on the experiences that form the story in his book:
There was a stretch where I could not have worked more hours in the day without eliminating sleep altogether. I piled on accomplishments. I made money. I earned accolades. And the longer I went at it, the emptier I began to feel, like pumping air faster and faster into a torn tire.
The time I spent with Morrie, my old professor, had screeched my brakes on much of that. After watching him die, and seeing what mattered to him at the end, I cut back. I erased much of my schedule.
But I still kept my hands on my own wheel. I didn’t turn things over to fate or faith. I recoiled from people who put their daily affairs in divine hands, saying “If God wants it, it will happen.” I kept silent when people said all that mattered was their personal relationship with Jesus. Such surrender seemed silly to me. I felt like I knew better.
He says he knows better now. After visiting his childhood rabbi off and on over eight years, he is impressed by someone who lived his life by smiling, singing, avoiding anger, and never asking “Why am I here?”
He knew why he was here. To give to others, to celebrate God, and to enjoy and honor the world he was put in. His morning prayers, recited upon awakening, began with “Thank you, Lord, for returning my soul to me.”
When you start that way, the rest of the day is a bonus.
The more interesting character in this book, at least for me, is the pastor – someone unable to live by easy aphorisms, working as hard as Mitch Albom used to work, trying to make his small congregation into a mission, in a rundown building in an unattractive part of town.
The book has interesting excerpts from Rabbi Albert Lewis’s sermons over the years, including his secret of happiness (“Be grateful”), and Albom plays the straight man in these sections of the book, recording the “Reb’s” words for posterity. But the best sermon in the book is Pastor Henry Covington’s life and service in a church called “I am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry,” advising his congregants that “whatever’s ailing you, let this church be your emergency room.”
It would spoil the book to indicate how Henry got there himself. Suffice it to say it is an earned knowledge and faith, and it motivates his work as if it were an endless task:
But, Henry, all the good you do here –
“No.” He shook his head. “You can’t work your way into heaven. Anytime you try and justify yourself with works, you disqualify yourself with works. What I do here, every day, for the rest of my life, is only my way of saying, “Lord, regardless of what eternity holds for me, let me give something back to you. I know it don’t even no scorecard. But let me make something of my life before I go . . .”