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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

V.V.B.C Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom (Online Book Club)

Vicarious Virtual Book Club
have a little faith by Mitch Albom (Online Book Club) 

NOTE: Spoiler alert! This is an overview of the discussion from the monthly book club meeting of the Sister Chick Book Club, Peachtree City, GA. If you intend to read this book, and don't wish to hear details about its contents, stop reading now!

Debbie Slowik was last night's facilitator. There were thirteen members present. This is the first book in a long time that everyone liked! Debbie prepared by doing a lot of internet research, and by watching videos of Mitch Albom online. Debbie shared interesting insights and discussion questions from her research. (Here are two videos from Mitch Albom's Official Youtube Channel, and a link below them for a third video.)

Mitch and Henry
Mitch with the Reb (Rabbi) and Henry (Pastor)

Link to Mitch and Henry on Today Show, the Day Before Henry Died

In Mitch's words: "His (Rabbi Albert Lewis, known as Reb) request plunges me back into the world of belief, a world I had left behind. I am drawn back to my childhood congregation and my old hometown—a suburban temple in southern New Jersey. At the same time, I am led to a poor, inner-city church in downtown Detroit—where I live now—with a hole in its roof where the rain and snow fall in. It is run by a former convict turned pastor, Henry Covington, who does his penance by taking care of the homeless.
This is a story about believing in something and the two very different men who taught me how. It took a long time to write. It took me to churches and synagogues, to the suburbs and the city, to the "us" versus "them" that divides faith around the world."

Debbie pointed out that in most every interview, Mitch Albom mentioned two things. One: Mitch was very overwhelmed when his Rabbi asked Mitch to do his eulogy. Two: Babies enter the world with their fists clinched, thinking they can grab hold of everything. However, we die with our hands open, because we know we can't take anything with us. She felt that those two things must have been very significant to the author. One of the video clips above illustrates the second. 

In Mitch's mind, Reb, his Rabbi, as a "Man of God," was only slightly lower than God in spiritual significance. Reb was the only Rabbi Mitch ever had. When Mitch moved away, he retained membership in his childhood  Synagogue. Mitch continued to travel home each year for the High Holy Days. Mitch maintained his traditions, but gradually was distanced from his childhood faith. Mitch had married a Christian, and they celebrated holidays from both traditions, but the rituals they observed didn't have deep meaning for Mitch.

Mitch was drawn to Reb's joy and peace, observing that "he didn't know many people at peace." Mitch was intrigued by Reb's "always celebrating what Reb called 'our beautiful faith.' "

We discussed reasons why Reb may have asked Mitch to do his eulogy. Several admitted to thoughts that Reb might have wanted Mitch to do it to boost Reb's status, because Mitch was famous, but that was given little credence, because of Reb's unpretentiousness. More people believed that Reb wanted to bring Mitch back to his faith, and Reb knew that Mitch's influence and involvement in Reb's service would impact lots more people in a positive way than having someone less well known deliver the eulogy.

Sister Chick Book Club members who read early versions of this book, did not know that Henry Covington had died. It was a revelation to a number of people that a chapter with Henry's farewell and eulogy were added as an Epilogue in the paperback version which many of us had read. 

Everyone loved Henry's miraculous victory over a life of drugs and crime, and how he lived out his faith by helping others who were "down and out," struggling with poverty, homelessness, drugs, etc. We discussed the validity of Mitch's skepticism about Henry's sincerity, and how Henry's steadfastness earned Mitch's respect. 

Reb's wisdom, humor, and dedication to family and congregants appealed to everyone in our group. Debbie mentioned many of Reb's significant thoughts, and others jumped in with their favorites, as well. 

Favorite quotes from the book:

“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe” 

"It's the blending of the different notes that makes the music." 

"The secret to satisfied and be grateful." 

“It is far more comforting to think God listened and said no, than to think that nobody’s out there”

"Lord, I've done x amount of good stuff on earth. I have tried to follow your teachings and to pass them on. I have loved my family, I've been part of a community. And I have been, I think, fairly good to people.
So, Heavenly Father, for all this, what is my reward?
And what do you think God will say? ...
He'll say, 'Reward? What reward? That's what you were supposed to do!'"

"When you come to the end, that's where God begins."
It gives you a peaceful feeling.

“You're a man of God, too, everyone is.” 

"my answer here, too, is yes, there is something. But friends, I'm sorry. Now that I know, I can't even tell you"

"If you could pack for heaven, this was how you'd do it, touch everything, take nothing."

"I think people expect too much from marriage today" he said. "They expect perfection. Every moment should be a bliss. That´s TV or movies. But that is not the human experience. Like Sarah says, twenty good minutes here, forty good minutes there, it adds up to something beautiful. The trick is when things aren´t so great, you don´t junk the whole thing. It´s okay to have an argument. It´s okay that the other one nudges you a little, bothers you a little. It´s part of being close to someone. But the joy you get from the sam closeness - when you watch your children, whan you wake up and smile at each other - that, as our tradition teaches us, is a blessing. People forget that. Why do they forget it? Because the word "commitment" has lost its meaning. I´m old enough to remember when it used to be positive. A committed person was someone to be admired. He was loyal and steady. Now a commitment is something you avoid. You don´t want to tie yourself down."

"The most inspirational man I knew only reached his potential by helping a child reach his."

That kind of love- the kind you realise you already have by the life you’ve created together- that’s the kind that lasts.

"There was a sermon where he brought a squash and a piece of wood, then slammed each with a knife to show that things which grow quickly are often more easily destroyed than those which take a long time"

"But I realized something as I drove home that night: that I am neither better nor smarter, only luckier.  And I should be ashamed of thinking I knew everything, because you can know the whole world and still feel lost in it.  So many people are in pain - no matter how smart or accomplished - they cry, they yearn, they hurt.  But instead of looking down on things, they look up, which is where I should have been looking, too.  Because when the world quiets to the sound of your own breathing, we all want the same things: comfort, love, and a peaceful heart."

"God sings, we hum along, and there are many melodies, but it's all one song - one same, wonderful, human song."

"After the Israelites safely crossed the Red Sea, the Egyptians chased after them and were drowned. God's angels wanted to celebrate the enemy's demise. 
God saw this and grew angry. He said, in essence, 'Stop celebrating. For they are my children,too."  

"I am in love with hope"

A couple of people, including Debbie, our moderator, had have a little faith more than once, and said they got even more out of it a second time. I can certainly believe that, as I was reviewing the book for this blog entry. This is a book I will continue to recommend. It's a very quick, but profound read. 

Thanks, Debbie! Any comments? Y'all just jump right in!  

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