Have a Little Faith
The following inspirational post is from a good friend of mine, Mitch Albom. Mitch is the bestselling author of “Tuesdays with Morrie,” and he recently wrote “Have a Little Faith.” His dedication to the good people of Detroit is evident in his generous support of programs such as I Am My Brother’s Keeper Ministry and S.A.Y. Detroit Family Health Clinic. Please enjoy.
Ten years ago, if you had asked me about faith, I would have bitten my lip. It was one of those taboo subjects. Keep it to yourself. Don’t reveal too much. Especially if all you have to say about it is cynical.
It’s not that I lost my faith. It’s just that I had wandered away from it. I was healthy. Work was going well. I figured God goes his way, I go mine, we have a truce of sorts. Besides, when I thought about organized religion, I tended to focus on the scandals. The hypocrisy. The bad headlines.
Then, as often happens in life, something random happened. I was giving a speech in my old hometown. A clergyman came to see me. He was 82 now. My family had belonged to his congregation since I was a child, and since I’d never joined another congregation, he was pretty much the only clergyman I’d called my own.
He pulled me aside. He smiled gently. And he asked me the strangest question.
“Will you do my eulogy?”
That began a journey that spanned nine years, a journey that ultimately took me back to, all around, and deeply into faith. As someone who hardly felt worthy of doing a eulogy for the man who does eulogies, I insisted on getting to know this white-haired, smiling, wise old man on a personal level. One visit led to another. One month led to a year. He lived until he was 90, by which point, I was finally prepared to do his eulogy, but not at all prepared for him to die.
At the same time, I was working with the homeless in my current home, Detroit, when I came upon a church that was old, magnificent and falling apart. Homeless men slept on its floor and ate in its kitchen. Its pastor was a large man named Henry Covington, who had once been a thief and a convict, but had turned his life around on a night he thought he would be murdered. Twenty years later, he had traded in the high and dangerous life of a drug dealer and now lived in deep poverty as a pastor, his church saddled with a giant hole in its roof through which rain and snow fell during services.
And over time, through multiple visits, I came to know him as well. And although he couldn’t have been more different than my clergyman — one black, one white, one inner city, one suburban, one Christian, one Jewish — I found what they had in common, and what comforted them in their struggles, was faith. Real faith. Not religious scandal faith. Not hypocrisy faith. Quiet faith.
The kind that made my clergyman believe that despite his decaying body, there was a heaven waiting for him. The kind that led Pastor Covington to believe that despite his decaying church, God would not abandon his congregation.
Slowly, quietly, through righteous behavior — not through lectures and finger wagging — these two men brought me back to a place where faith could be a part of my daily life.
I remember sitting with my wise old clergyman once and hearing a baby scream. He looked at me and said, “Did you ever notice how babies come into the world with their tiny fists clenched?”
Yes, I said.
“Do you know how our sages explain that? They say that babies, not knowing any better, clench their fists because they think they can have everything.”
He smiled. “But now, look at me, an old man. How am I going to die?”
He opened his hands wide.
“Like this,” he said. “Why?”
“Why?” I repeated.
“Because as an old man I know, you take nothing with you.”
That really hit me. Because the difference between his two examples, between a young child thinking he can have everything and an old man knowing he can take nothing, is the gap for which only faith will fill us.
When material possessions mean nothing, when job success, status, accomplishments, homes, bank accounts, envy of your peers, when all that means nothing, you realize the only thing you truly have here on earth that may serve you once you’re gone is your faith, your belief in something larger than yourself.
I was lucky to have two very different men teach me that in hundreds of little ways. And I’ve come to believe faith is something that can pull us together, rather than rip us apart.
This is the story of my new book, the true story, Have A Little Faith. Dr. Phil was kind enough to tape a show with me recently about it. I thank him for the rare and wonderful opportunity to share the events with him — and his audience — and I hope whatever situation you find yourself in, a little faith will help make it better.