'Have a Little Faith' offers inspirational message for difficult times


   It’s not uncommon these days to grow up in a religious household, be a faithful attendee as a child at Sunday school, Sabbath school or vacation bible school, to happily participate in teen youth groups, then drift away from the faith in young adulthood. The business of life — working on weekends, traveling on the job, or moving to a city far from home — can disrupt the worship patterns one’s parents tried so diligently to instill in childhood.
   Author Mitch Albom found himself in such a position. He had grown up faithfully attending temple in the New Jersey suburbs, His parents sent him to religious school three days a week. He went through the requisite studies to be bar mitzvahed. In high school, he attended a private religious academy. He went on to Brandeis University, where the student body is mostly Jewish. He led youth groups at a temple outside Boston to earn money toward his tuition.
   Then he graduated, and as he says, pretty much walked away from the world of faith.
   And, as is true for many of us, Albom’s opinion of religion was not improved by exposure to politicians and sports figures who wrapped themselves in piety while they violated all of the Ten Commandments and then some. He looked with suspicion on the overtly religious, as well.
   Yet, the former sportswriter maintained ties with the faith of his childhood. Every fall, he attended High Holiday services with his parents at the temple in New Jersey. It remained his only temple, he says, and its rabbi, Albert Green, his rabbi. And one spring the rabbi requested something of the man he had known from boyhood. ‘‘Will you write my eulogy?’’
   Now Albom brings us "Have a Little Faith: A True Story" (2009, Hyperion). The book has been at the top of best-seller lists for weeks. It’s actually the story of two men of God.
   Rabbi Albert Green is the first. Facing the daunting task of writing the eulogy of a man he has revered since childhood, Albom realizes he doesn’t really know him. And how do you write the eulogy of someone who is still alive?
   The second is an inner-city Detroit pastor, Henry Covington. His flock includes the homeless, the drug-addled, the old and desperately poor. His church is decaying right along with the neighborhood around it. His own resume reads like a police blotter. Albom meets him in the course of administering a charity the hugely successful writer has set up.
   As Albom gets acquainted with the pastor and really gets to know Rabbi Green, revelation stacks upon revelation.
   Albom is a former Detroit sportswriter who penned the major best-seller "Tuesdays with Morrie" and the also wildly popular books "The Five People You Meet in Heaven" and "For One More Day." Those who love sports love it, in part, for its true-life stories of courage and triumph. Sports, at its best, inspires. Albom is finding inspiration worth telling about in life outside of sports, and we, his readers, are lucky for it.
   Especially at this difficult time economically, it’s good to be reminded that there’s grace — and more — to be found in living life day to day, even when that life is difficult.