Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Review: "Have a Little Faith" (Mitch Albom)

TITLE: Have A Little Faith
AUTHOR: Mitch Albom
PUBLISHED: Thorndike Press, 2009.

Have a Little Faith: A True StoryTwo men. Two stories. One common theme. Albom continues this genre of speaking meaning into living and dying. While the title of the book suggests it being a religious book, it is more of a reflection, or a writing of eulogies for two friends the author know personally. If you have read his previous bestseller, "Tuesdays with Morrie," you will probably be familiar with the style of interview-cum-retelling of the lives of individuals. If there is a difference between Albom's previous book and this, it will be in terms of how one anticipates dying. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Albom spends each Tuesday talking with a Professor dying from ALS. In Have a Little Faith,  Albom talks about two men of faith, who despite coming from different backgrounds, ends up in a similar line of ministry of help. Both have asked Albom to meet with them on a regular basis, and eventually to write their eulogies.

Albom cleverly keeps the pace of the book vivid, by alternating story snippets of the two men. One is a Jewish rabbi (known as Reb) while the other is a Protestant pastor (known as Henry). It is a gentle retelling of how these men practiced faith, after going through the storms of life. There are three things that I learn from the reading of this book.

1) It is Never Too Early
Albom begins the book with a startling question posed by the rabbi, Albert Lewis, "Will you do my eulogy?" Thus begins a journey of not only recording the life of Lewis, but also to see the faith of Lewis from the eyes of Albom. The book ends with a touching eulogy. Henry Covington on the other hand does not has it easy. Growing up in a rough neighbourhood, imprisoned for drug crimes and other bad things, he has his life changed when he encounters Jesus. From one who initially helps himself, he becomes one who helps others. In both cases, it is never too early to prepare for one's dying. The preparation to die comes out of a faithful living. As the title suggests, it is never too early to 'have a little faith.'

2) There is Always Hope
Dying can be downright depressing. The word itself is filled with morbid images. Yet, this book comes across as one that carries hope in spite of dying. From the narrative of Henry Covington, it reminds me of the phrase: "preaching like a dying man to dying men." If our living can become one of hope to people around us, we can all be messengers of hope. I am deeply encouraged by Henry Covington who started the I AM MY BROTHER'S KEEPER Church. For example, even when the heating company turns off the heater because the bills were not paid, the ministry continues with a cheerful heart.

3) Friendship
This is perhaps the biggest benefit I gained. I am reminded about the importance of friendship. One needs not be of the same exact faith in order to be friends. The key word is faithfulness. This is something that goes beyond performance or results. Friendship transcends all religious barriers. Just like a very religious Reb asking a not-very-religious Albom to write his eulogy. Or the willingness of Henry to let Albom bare the ugly facts of Henry's life in a book. Without the trust of friendship, lives can never be shared so openly.

"Please love one another, talk to one another, don't let trivialities dissolve friendships. . . ." (from the recorded voice of Albert Lewis) (451)

There are stories within the story in this book. This book is a page turner, and a heart warmer. Let me end this review with a quote from one of Albom's retrospective words
"I thought about his dilapidated church downtown. And I realized that, that in some ways, we all have a hole in our roof, a gap through which tears fall and bad events blow like harsh wind. We feel vulnerable; we worry about what storm will strike next. But seeing Henry that day, being cheered by all those new faces, I believe, as the Reb once told me, that, with a little faith, people can fix things, and they truly can change, because at that moment, you could not believe otherwise." (445-6)
In a world that worships success and material gains, fame and prosperity refrains, a little faith should rescue us from an artificial haziness worldliness, back down to good old earth. Such faith almost always means sharing and helping fellow people around us. With so much religion-bashing going on these days, this book is a nice corrective, that communicates again, that religion is meant to let our faith help one another.


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