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For years, when asked what I wanted for a Christmas gift, I offered the same canned but heartfelt item:
Peace on earth and good will toward men.
Could there be a better present than wanting the world to reach its serene and sincere summit? I mean, what could compare? A new Countess Mara (look it up) or a sleeve of Titleists or one of those hot cars so many folks in commercials seem to receive?
No, I thought nothing under the tree could be greater – until now.
For 2011, there is something new atop my list, a new staple, a new requirement and something a bit more easily acquired than a world-sized dose of Valium, though you still won’t find it at Goody’s, Biagi’s or even Rural King.
This struck me squarely on Sunday, when I watched the movie adaptation of a moving book I had read, Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith.
Maybe you haven’t read the book – which, I ironically and wonderfully received as a gift last Christmas – or tuned to Hallmark Channel.
I admit my doubts about how well the movie could translate the story of a man reuniting with his faith because of a series of events that took him back to his home synagogue and by chance to an aging old church serving Detroit’s huddled masses.
But with moving performances from a solid gold cast and careful storytelling across a complex landscape, Faithcame across as the bright and impulsive imperative for my heart this holiday season:
I need to have faith.
We allneed to have faith.
And before you write this off as a bit of holiday proselytizing – a tendency for me, I admit – or think I’m leading to a joke about Tim McGraw, faith to me is a secular sensation.
You don’t have to go to a church or a synagogue or a mosque or even the Lion’s Club to have faith. You just have to, well, have it.
When Paul laid out in his note to the Corinthians that there is faith, hope and love, he was clear that love was the greatest, but he didn’t let on that faith was the most difficult.
That’s the part where we stumble around.
Most of us try to waltz through life in a dazed dance, looking for the right steps, a bit of grace and trying to avoid leaving someone else with damaged toes along the way.
But our path across that dance floor is an obstacle course of missteps, pratfalls and detours, and our tendency is to rely on our own talents and plans to avoid and escape them.
We know our best efforts aren’t always good enough, that something will reach out and snag us and drag us away from that peaceful promenade, leaving anger, pain, frustration and depression to overwhelm us and steal us away.
And I am convinced that faith is the only solution.
You can develop your faith in many ways, by praying, by giving up control or by focusing on a beacon that leads you through the rocks and to the peaceful shore.
In Faith, Albom, an acclaimed sports writer who cracked the bestseller lists with his story of his Tuesdays with Morrie, is asked by his former and aging rabbi to deliver the man’s eulogy.
As Albom sets out to understand what he doesn’t know about the man, they develop a relationship that helps lead Albom back to his faith, which is not to say simply his Jewish roots.
And on the way it asks Albom an important question: What is your glory?
What is your glory?
How would you answer that?
What separates you and makes you who and what you are, underscores your life, sets you apart, launches you across that dance floor?
And my response was instantly crystal: my family.
I have learned in decades of chasing across that floor that the people who count on me are the most important.
I value my friends, my community and you, my readers, but it’s my family that matters most, all unkempt corners and time-scattered pieces of it.
It’s for the benefit of all of them that I exist, and it’s on behalf of each of them that I cling to faith that life will see me to that task.
Please don’t cast me as an unbeliever. Far from it. But faith in family generates a will, a purpose, a focus and a belief.
I must maintain faith that what happens in my life will be because of the needs of my family, not necessarily the needs of me, my designs on life or feeding the ego with which I was born and have overstuffed.
What my family wants from life will be provided, and my role is to be alert for its delivery.
Believe me, I have seen so many examples when having faith worked a whole lot better than moving boulders around by myself.
Part of Albom’s findings in Faithwas the opportunity to use his understanding of himself to help rebuild the people and the facility of that old, grand, crumbling church, which was pastored by a reformed convict.
He started a foundation, created a thread and let it lead to better days for those who needed the help, fulfilling his glory.
His rabbi helped him find his faith, and the ex-con-cum-cleric showed him how to use it.
And this Christmas that is what I want as a gift: To have the faith that what happens to me and what I do fulfills my glory, my family. It’s all I want.
Although, come to think of it, maybe peace on earth would be a bit easier t grasp.