Why I Believe…
A particular incident recently challenged my “faith”. I wrote this with the hopes that it could be of help to other people who have challenges.
When I was 8 or 9 years old I went to St. Francis Xavier Catholic Elementary School in SE Washington DC. I can still vividly remember Miss Puglisi with her thick metal ruler whacking little hands that were doing “naughty” things.
It happened that in assembling for the Processional Marches associated with Catholic Feast Days, we were lined up according to height, smallest in front carrying the flag, the cross, the emblem of the procession. With a father that was 5’ 6” and an immigrant mother that was 5’1” and with my birthday in December, it not only made me the youngest in my class, but it also ensured that I would be leading my class in the processions.
For some reason, being the small fry also ensured that bigger bullies had an easy target. I felt like I had a bull’s eye on my back and since the 3rd grade, I had needed to wear glasses to see the blackboard. There were no cool designer frames to enhance one’s coolness, not that we would have been able to afford them in any case. I have to admit in retrospect I was a pretty nerdy looking, unhappy kid that seemed to invite bullying.
There was one bigger boy in particular whose name has been erased from my memory. He seemed to take particular interest in the bull’s eye on my back and took a swing at me and tried to hit the bull’s eye every lunch time while we played in the street between the two buildings that comprised the school property. I did my best to avoid the devoid but often enough he’d find me looking the other way and “bam”. Ugh!
We lived in an apartment on 29th Pl. not very far from the church and school property on Pennsylvania Ave. I have no idea why I was alone and walking by there on a Saturday but I saw the church doors wide open.
What do you do when you see a wide open door to a mysterious place? You peek in, then if it seems safe to do so, you walk through of course. Men were inside with floor polishing equipment. I took a seat in a back pew and then kneeled on the cushioned kneeler. I don’t remember what prayers I uttered silently but the intention was clear… “God do something about this bully. I have no help but you. God, if you are real…”
Later in life, I read the Psalms and it seemed that I was in the same place spiritually as was David in his cries for help from the Lord.
On Monday, I returned to school and at lunch time, I spotted my tormentor. His right arm was in a cast. I was never hit again the rest of the year. Was it coincidence?
Not in my 9 year old mind. From that time until today, I know where to turn when I am at wit’s end and in need of extra help, when life’s pressures become unbearable. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121)
I hadn’t thought about this for years but last weekend I was at dinner at a small neighborhood gathering in Baltimore and Jamal said he grew up in SE DC. “Jamal, I went to St. Francis Xavier for three years.” He had too. Although he was 17 years my younger, it brought to mind this pivotal episode that sealed in my heart the belief in God I carry with me today.
There were a few other episodes in life that seemed to confirm my child-like faith. Of course there were times in life that I knocked at the door and it seemed that no one was home. We each have our own ideas about life, faith and the meaning of it all. How to rationalize losses of loved ones? How to make sense of injustices that seem to abound? What to do in the face of death? How to deal with sickness and life’s upheavals?
Faith is a personal thing. It can be shared and nutured but not enforced. It can be accepted or rejected but it cannot be crushed by the boot of the oppressor. For some reason the oppressor’s boot seems to make the seed of faith grow. I remember an old story about STRADIVARIUS VIOLINS. The secret of the sweet sound and the unique quality of these comes from the materials used. The bulk of the resonance material came from trees at the crest of the hills where the wind always blew and the trees were strenghtened through resistance. On the cellular level, the structure was made tighter through adversity.
I suppose I can get a health lesson out of this and say that this is why strength training for our muscles is sometimes called resistance training. You test the muscles against the maximum weight or the maximum number of reps you can do to the point of fatigue. This give you the best chance to protect your bones and your organs. It’s one of the components to preventing osteoporsis. (See, no matter where I start I end up talking about health.)
Paul the Apostle, more than 2,000 years ago said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” That seems to sum it up for me. Okay, now I have to go swing that 25 lb kettle ball.
Best in health,
PPS. Free Reports on the Near Miraculous Ability of Omega-3s to heal.