By Terri Schlichenmeyer
It was a lesson you learned the moment you were old enough to sass back: Always respect your elders.
When Grandma spoke, you listened. If Grandpa said to do something, it was as good as done. If you valued your life, you answered Mom or Dad respectfully, and heaven help the kid who spoke to a neighbor in a snide manner.
Always respect your elders. But what if the elder makes a difficult request? In the new book “Have a Little Faith” by Mitch Albom, it took eight years to make good a promise.
Albert Lewis almost wasn’t a Rabbi. Having failed Divinity School, he almost gave up but was encouraged to try again. Later, when he finally got his own synagogue, the tiny congregation consisted of just a handful of families.
One of them was Mitch Albom’s.
As a child, Albom remembered the Reb as an imposing man with an inexplicable love of song and of sermon; basically, someone to avoid. Despite his parents’ anchoring and years of lessons, Albom grew up and grew out of his faith, learning that mouthed prayers, uttered mechanically, were somehow acceptable. He moved away from home and looked upon religion as quaint, invisible.
So Albom was surprised when Rabbi Lewis asked him to do his eulogy.
Because one cannot speak well about a man without knowing him, Albom agreed to the request, but told the Reb that they needed to set meetings so that questions could be answered. And it came to pass that Albom made the trek from his home in Detroit to New Jersey several times a year for eight years.
Back in Detroit , the economy was lashing at the city, jobs were lost and so were homes. But in a sagging old cathedral near Tiger Stadium, a former drug dealer was feeding the homeless and preaching the gospel, all but abandoned by his Mother Church, trying to do good with what God was giving him.
As Albom began to examine the disparity between the congregations – the wealthy synagogue and the poverty-stricken inner-city shelter-church – he began to wonder about God, trust and faith. And he learned a lesson you won’t soon forget.
I wasn’t crazy about this book at first. Author Mitch Albom, like one of his subjects, loves to savor an anecdote before he lets it go, and that bogs down the beginning of this book. But once you get past the stage-setting and you move a few pages in, “Have a Little Faith” soars.
By telling the story of two men who are similar but different, Albom forces his readers to examine their own beliefs, as well as the meaning of hope and miracles. I won’t tell you how this book ends, but suffice it to say you’ll come away with your heart lifted to the rafters.
Fans of Albom’s first book and anyone who’s ever pondered the nature of belief will want to make room on their bookshelf for a new favorite. “Have a Little Faith” is a book I believe you’ll love.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. She lives in West Salem, Wis., with two dogs and more than 9,500 books.