Many years ago, now, my Dad told me he had given notice on his toy shop’s rental space. He couldn’t afford to rent as much space as the new landlord wanted him to, and the landlord wouldn’t rent him any less. He gave notice before he had secured another location. He had to be out by the end of the month. The month was December – December in the toy business. There was no time to be out looking for a new location, and not many spaces were becoming available at that time, either. On a visit with my Dad, I asked him how the search was going. If my memory is trustworthy, it was about 10 days before Christmas.
He replied that, well, he was hoping for Edgemont, but he was also considering Westview, since those were neighbourhoods he liked, and both closer to his home. Edgemont has about 50 shops, and Westview maybe 15.
Ummm… but he was looking elsewhere, too, right? I mean… it’s highly unlikely he’d find something in one of those tiny shopping areas, on such short notice and … NOW.
Nope. He wasn’t.
Well, surely he’d booked storage for all his stock, then, hadn’t he?
Nope. He was going to move to Edgemont.
He had faith.
Oh God – not this again. My father is a Baptist, and I am not. He would say don’t take the Lord’s name in vain. I do not believe in God. I would not put the future of my tiny toystore and all my life’s effort at risk just because I’ve decided I want something far out of my grasp, and then trust in God to provide it.
Had I ever heard of the Mount of Olives?
Of course not.
…the mountain where Jesus provided the people, bla bla bla… The people had faith and Jesus provided. It was a lovely story – really. Just not in my faith-book. My Dad said he had faith, too.
Three days or so before Christmas I phoned to see how my Dad’s search was going, and to offer to help him arrange storage. He seemed to have found something, exactly where he wanted on the main street in Edgemont, but it wouldn’t be available until March.
So the storage?
Nope. He had faith.
The day before Christmas my Dad was clearing some snow from in front of his shop, and the neighbour – a man who Daddy had previously helped – came to ask how his search was going, and to offer him his empty warehouse for the lag time between leaving the old store and moving into the new one.
Problem solved. My Dad had faith and Jesus provided. Or somebody did. I still don’t believe in God, but I do believe in faith.
We just watched Miracle on 34th street, and I was struck by the significance of the “in God we trust” plot twist (the lawyer convinces the judge that Santa is real in the same way that God is real; invisible though he may be, millions of people put their faith in him, and if we lost that faith the fabric of our society would disintegrate). It doesn’t have to be God or Santa or the Easter Bunny; not even fairies or the Central Bank or love; it can simply be faith itself. I absolutely could not stand the movie “the Secret”. I found it shallow and stupid, but at its core it was about having faith. Numerous studies have shown that people who have prayer – whether by themselves or by other people they are unaware of – heal faster on average than those who don’t receive prayer. Obama won with a slogan of pure faith: Yes We Can! It doesn’t matter how or why or even what; we just trust that we can. The magic is not in the entity or power that is believed in; it’s in the belief itself. I believe in wishing.
When I was in grade 5 I went on a class trip to the Flying U Ranch. My class took the water taxi off Bowen Island in the early morning, and I wished fervently upon Venus that the boy I loved would ask me out. I wished and wished and wished with all the faith I had until I could no longer see the star, and then I wished the same thing in every tunnel we entered on our trip up the Fraser Canyon to the ranch. Not only was I one of the least popular girls in my class, always the last picked for teams, only 10 years old, and absolutely terrified to talk to the boy in question, but he was by far the most popular boy, doted on by every girl, and in no way desperate for a date. Girls had fist-fights over him, and yet none of us dated anybody, yet. Those wishes were prayers.
On the last day of our class trip, there was a dance. I dreaded parties. I went to my cabin and sobbed the evening away while everybody else danced. Actually I was lying on the bed, drawing a very miserable picture of everybody else dancing, and myself crying. I still have it. It’s half finished. There is a funny-looking line where the pencil slipped when I suddenly stopped drawing. Knock at the door. … Yes? … Emily? Of course it was him – I was so shocked I fell off my bed and onto the floor, and, as I stumbled up to my feet in front of him, he asked me to dance with him. In hindsight, it doesn’t matter whether my teacher encouraged him to ask me, or whether he came to my cabin out of pure true love. That night not only my faith in wishes was bolstered, but my faith in a world that sometimes seemed to have abandoned me. I have spent most of my life trying to build up the courage to like myself; to have faith in myself and my ability to just be good enough. In my head I know that it’s all in my head. But it’s only faith that can make that leap for me.
My Mum and Pappa taught me atheism, but they also taught me faith. They put faith in the land and fed us. They put faith in their own ability to create a life together, and a beautiful home out of a piece of forest. It wasn’t easy, but they had faith and they prevailed. They put faith in love to lead us through our differences, and faith in me, recently, when they bought me an etching press for a career they can hardly fathom. We put faith in the vast universe, every day, when we leave our loved ones and our dreams and trust that we’ll find them again. Our faith is broken, sometimes. It has to be. But it's also what allows us to carry on. Faith goes on.
Right now my Dad is recovering from surgery after a fall that cracked his spine. His God sure hasn’t given him an easy row to hoe, but he is stalwart in his faith, just like he’s stalwart in his refusal to use a walker, much to my fear and dismay. His Parkinson’s seems, if anything, to have deepened his faith in his God. I guess God is there when you need him, just like parents, stars, love and Santa Claus.
I still don’t believe in God, but I believe in faith.