Haven Bradford Gow
Haven Bradford Gow is a former law clerk for two Chicago law firms, a T.V. and radio commentator, and writer who teaches religion to children at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Greenville, Mississippi.
As Vanderbilt University scholar Peter Hodgson points out in The Mystery Beneath the Real: Theology in the Fiction of George Eliot (Fortress Press), George Eliot's Silas Marner is a novel of enduring beauty and value.
The book tells the story of Silas Marner, who once was a popular church member in one community but became so embittered after being falsely accused of stealing from a fellow church member (a trusted friend was the real culprit) that he moved to Raveloe, where he lives a lonely and isolated life as a weaver.
Silas has no friends in Raveloe, and the only satisfaction he gains from existence is accumulating gold coins that he receives in payment for his beautiful work.
One day a young, greedy, selfish and irresponsible man breaks into Silas' home and steals his life savings. Silas becomes even more isolated, embittered, and enraged. One day, though, a beautiful little orphan girl literally walks into Silas' home and life. Silas names the little girl Eppie, and Eppie becomes a guiding light and inspiration for everyone with whom she comes into contact. She is like a Christ-figure, a guardian angel, who teaches Silas the meaning of true, spiritual love and the purpose of life. From caring for, raising, and loving Eppie, Silas learns the pathway to personal redemption.
My friend Jamye McCray is a student at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School and a basketball player and gymnastic student at the Hodding Carter YMCA in Greenville, Mississippi. Jamye is like Eppie.
Anyone who comes into contact with Jamye becomes a better person for having known her.
One day Jamye was walking with a little girl at the YMCA; the girl said she was afraid to walk by herself from the youth center building to the playground. Another little girl told Jamye the same thing. So Jamye proceeded to carry one of the little girls on her back all the way to the playground, while at the same time holding on to the hand of the other little girl.
It was a moment of tremendous grace and beauty. And I thank God I was able to witness this happening because I got a glimpse into the beauty and goodness of Jamye's heart and soul. It also reminded me that there are so many beautiful and good children in our communities who -- like Jamye -- have faith in God and treat others the way they would like to be treated.
One afternoon at the YMCA I was playing basketball with my friends Mishayla Johnson, Shuntae Brown, Ronesha Haygood, Rebecca McIntyre, Carlos, Andrew, Steven and Malcolm when a small, handicapped boy named Taylor came to us and said he wanted to play in the game.
All the children readily welcomed him into the game. Instead of becoming bored or irritated with the handicapped boy when he had difficulty dribbling, passing and shooting the ball, Mishayla and the others told him:
Taylor, don't feel bad about making mistakes. You're our friend, and you can play basketball with us any time you want, even if you make mistakes.
On another occasion I was playing basketball with Tekayla Warfield and her friend Jasmine when Jasmine suddenly stopped playing and said: "I feel bad. I play lousy. I keep missing my shots."
Tekeyla immediately put her arm around Jasmine and said:
Jasmine, don't you have Jesus? If you have Jesus, you don't need to feel bad. Jesus will help you to be good.
Christ is right: If we want to make it into heaven, we must possess the spiritual beauty, purity, and innocence of children. He was talking about children like Jamye McCray, Mishayla Johnson, Tekayla Warfield and other children I have been blessed by God to encounter at the Hodding Carter YMCA in Greenville, Mississippi. *
"Courage . . . is the universal virtue of all those who choose to do the right thing over the expedient thing. It is the common currency of all those who do what they are supposed to do in a time of conflict, crisis and confusion." --Florence Nightingale