“Whoa”, he exclaimed. “How did you do that?” “By faith”, she replied, her voice once more coming from just beside him. Knowing his total confusion, she continued. "You see, Charley, everything here is about faith". "Really?” he said. “To so many the world view of faith holds it as just a fantasy when, in fact, as you will find, it is very real. Faith is the force causing all things to happen and for certain everything that is here is so because of it.” He began to feel sensory overload as once again he looked around him, taking in the beauty and magnificence of it all and tried to let what she just said settle. Finally, he spoke again, "Is all of this real?” he asked. "If it isn't, Mr. Engineer and Planner, just on what are you standing", she replied with a chuckle. "Well, I am having a hard time comprehending what I am seeing. It is just way too much", he said at last. With furrows of puzzlement on his forehead and his head reeling from the magnitude of ideas reverberating through his mind, he finally said: "Do you mean this building . . .?", “By faith", she answered, interrupting. "The courtyard,” he asked. Again, she replied; "by faith." "Well how about . . .” "That too by faith and Charley, remember I said and meant everything."
“I have heard talk of faith before and have tried to apply it, like when Dad died. He was so sick and I knew how much Mom and I would miss him. Then, over the years I experimented with faith with some success but mostly I just experienced failure. It seems it is kind of haphazard ".
“When were you most successful?” knowingly, she asked. “Mostly, I have associated faith with prayer”, he said. “If I received what I asked, it was called an answer to prayer and if not, it was called God’s way of saying either wait or telling me ‘no’. Kind of like a stop light. You get a red light for no, green for go and a yellow to keep it mellow. But often it seemed the lights are just totally out”. “Prayer is one exercise in faith” she said. “So why don’t you start with a prayer then meet me on the other porch”.
Charlie commenced; “Oh Eternal God, Magnificent Father and maker of the infinite universe, Most glorious and merciful …. merciful”. He stopped. Next to him she was trying hard but unsuccessfully to stifle a giggle, finally, she could hold it no longer. Sputtering, she laughed and then howled in absolute hilarity. Even though he felt embarrassed through and through, her laughter was ever so contagious and soon he found himself joining her mirth and laughing with her until his sides hurt.
“Have a seat” she suggested, and for the first time he noticed a chair behind him and sat down. “Why didn’t you go through your ‘Oh Eternal God’ routine before you sat down?” she asked softly. “Well, I am used to sitting”. “In a chair that wasn’t here just moments ago?” she asked, letting the question dangle. “When you sat down, you made a decision to sit and a commitment to the results the chair would support you. Besides not too long ago you knocked on a door that wasn't there either and not only that, you opened it and walked through. Pretty good start on faith I would say.
Prayer is not simply an expression but when coupled with faith becomes an expectation requiring a decision and commitment. You have to release the expression in order to experience results. I saw the deep breath you took and saw your mind going back to that cold snowy morning in Jackson. You remembered how crisp and clear was the air that filled your lungs.” She continued; “Here faith is equally crisp and clear of the faith pollution in the world you know. Your world has made you acclimated to double speak, white lies, black lies, truth having various shades, advertising, rhetoric and strident voices. Because they are so loud and compelling they resonate throughout your mind. It becomes saturated in the environment of suspicion of practically everything, faith becomes nearly impossible. And by the way, experimenting with faith is oxymoronic and you weren't experimenting when you quit your comfortable job to move across country and again when you opened your own firm and acted against practical wisdom because of your own belief and commitment.
But let's take your faith to a little higher level and this time just forget the ‘Eternal’ routine, expect the result and if necessary take a step or two say something like "So be it, let it be so or Amen" as you release the expectancy and commit to seeing yourself on the other side.. .” Charlie got up, closed his eyes, visualized the other balcony, took a step forward and said “amen”. When he opened his eyes, he looked back across the pool to the other balcony, the one with the chair. “Wow! He exclaimed, “This is unbelievable”. Quietly she asked rhetorically; “like walking on water, feeding a hungry throng with a couple of loaves and a few fish, turning water into wine, healing a leper or a blind man or . . .?”, her voice took on a happier note as she suggested “Why don’t you go on and explore and I will catch up later”. Still not used to conversing with someone that wasn't there, Charlie asked “By the way, what is your name?"
"As you already surmised, Charley, I have many names, too many for you to grasp for now. But just call me Windy. Puzzled, Charlie turned and opened a door that led to one of many foyers he would encounter. This room was about the size of his bedroom, unpretentious and rather sparse in accouterments. What was there simply amazed him; there was a statue of Van Cliburn, one of his heroes, several large wall mounted plaques containing some of his most treasured words of comfort and encouragement. There was also a grand piano. On one of the plaques was a quote he encountered long ago, it read: “God Invited, I responded, God met me there!” Charley remembered the time when the invitation came. It came in the mail in the form of an advertisement for a seminar sponsored by one of his mentors. “Too busy”, was his response. “I can’t go now”, he remembered thinking. Then for some time, he regretted not having gone. When, a year later another invitation came, he knew he had to go. As it turned out, it was among his most memorable experiences. Afterward, Charley wrote the words in his diary. “Wasn’t the door in my closet another invitation?” he mused. Charley was practically in tears when he saw these dear treasures yet quite dejected seeing the piano his fingers would never play. Even in his sorrow, he could not resist once more sitting at the instrument even if only to rub the finish and play just a few notes not requiring any movement of his arthritic fingers. His right forefinger struck B flat, the first note of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1. He remembered his hero Van Cliburn played the piece, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Try as he might, though, Charley was never quite able to master the piece and then his fingers became almost useless to the task.
He played another note, then another and another and by the time he got to the 10th bar, to his utter astonishment he was fluidly playing, conscious of a heightened mental lucidity and verve. Uncontrolled tears streamed unabashedly down his face as he watched his fingers fly flawlessly over the keys as with minds of their own; filling the room with the music he could only heretofore but dream. He had never played with more power or grace and even without the companion part; the music took on an intensity he had never realized.
When Tchaikovsky wrote the concerto, he did so with a piano duet in mind. Charley could not believe his ears were hearing the second part playing along with his. After what seemed like hours of sheer bliss, Charley was emotionally drained, seated at the piano with his head in his hands. "Who are you?" Charley asked at last. "Peter, or you can call me Pyotr, if you like, I have looked forward to meeting you for so long". "You aren't....., no you can't be....., that's impossible...., no”, but by the way his yet unseen partner played, there was no doubt who he was or what just happened. He had just played a duet with the master composer himself, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. "I have a lot of questions for you sir" Newell stated but Peter told him they would have time later but this time he needed to explore as Windy suggested. Did she say I am at home, Charley asked himself. "Does that mean I am dead?” If so, why do I feel so alive?" Charley continued to try sorting out what was happening but the facts did not fit the reality and what he perceived as real did not fit either. "She had told me to go and explore and she would see me later", he remembered, so now somewhat collected, he continued on.
From the foyer there were other doors. One of them had a small sign reading “Hall of Treasures”, another, "Hall of Opportunities", still another, "Hall of History and then Hall of Memories". Briefly, he thought about opening the door to the Hall of Memories, knowing there were many wonderful times he might like to revisit. But he also knew intuitively there were 'ghosts' that he might not want to resurrect. So he decided to explore the "Hall of Treasures" instead. When he tried that door, he was inhibited from opening it, not that it was locked, but he was nevertheless constrained and redirected back to the Hall of Memories. He entered.
He found himself in a long hallway, so long that the end seemed beyond his vision. Charley tested the walls and found, indeed they had a soft texture but still the firmness of concrete. Like the exterior walls, they, too, looked brand new and similarly, their luminescence was such as to require no other light source. A quick glance of his trained eyes revealed no sign of traditional mechanics like electrical outlets, switches, heat or ac vents. What he saw was a procession of pictures hung on both walls two high starting about knee level off the floor, each about the size of a 42" TV set, but that is where the comparison ended. Charlie was impressed with high definition, 3D television but the exquisite vividness of the pictures on these walls was even more spectacular. Each picture was enclosed in a teak-
As he approached the first picture, it was of a young boy about four. To his amazement, the picture came alive. The lad was lying on the ground screaming his head off, another boy armed with a pea shooter straddled over him and blew a small pea at the boy. It was then Charley remembered the boy’s name was Michaels. C B Michaels to be exact and as the shooter turned, Charley recognized his younger self and the whole story came into focus and played out before him within the frame. C B had to go to the hospital to have the pea extracted from his sinuses and when his dad came and asked about the incident, Charlie lied about it. That was his first lie and bothered him for some time afterward. The incident didn't trouble him now but he was amazed at the profusion of extraneous detail contained in the scene; detail like the piece of wood cut to resemble a rifle (a treasure of his younger self) and the wooden train engine (the subject of the two boy's fight). The details caught in the scene fascinated him most and while his memory was less than perfect, he knew instinctively they were authentic. There was yet another dimension within the frame that resembled intuition but magnified exponentially. Struggling to self describe it, lacking adequate vocabulary, he grabbed the term instantaneous mind meld because while viewing the scenes, he could sense feelings, passions, sentiments, motivations, and other nuances making for perfect clarity in understanding.
After browsing a while, the next picture catching his attention was of a very small corner grocery store managed by a kindly, elderly couple. Charlie recognized the store as the one he walked by on the way to and from elementary school. He knew the Johnsons barely eked out a living as the last of the little stores were forced out of existence by the chains. During the depression and the years of WWII, little stores provided meat, vegetables, staples and canned goods and other supplies on a cash and carry basis.
Many families owed the Johnsons for groceries bought while the father was overseas engaged with the Germans or Japanese. They never called it a ‘bad debt’ when so many men were killed and their families could not pay. Charlie watched in horror as he saw himself in the store, walk by a barrel of candy and slip several pieces into his jacket. The elder Charley caught the look of dismay and sadness on the gentle face of Mr. Johnson as the old man watched. He heard him say to Mrs. Johnson, “he still is one of my favorite kids”.
While still captivated by the presentations before him, he began to sense an undercurrent of foreboding as he quickly calculated in his mind the volume of detail within each scene and the thousands of scenes within the 'Hall of Memories' coming up with far more details about him and his life than anyone should ever know.