Years and years ago, I went to middle school with a kid that lived in a foster home. I’d never heard of one before. I lived with my family on the north side of Chicago, and all I knew from my rather sheltered perspective was that kids lived with their own families in an apartment or a house.
But this kid didn’t. He said his family was on the south side but he didn’t get to see them. He didn’t say why. I was too young to know what the reasons might be, and too afraid to ask.
We had become friends, and one day he asked me to come to his house after school. I was kind of an anxious kid, so on the way, we talked about who might be there, what might be expected of me when I got there, and how long I could stay. My friend said “Momma McCormick is nice, but she’s kind of strict,” said my friend,”so be really good, OK?”
As a sixth grader, that’s all i knew how to be.
As I walked through the front door, standing in the hallway was one of the biggest women I’d ever seen in my life. Hands on her hips and a smile that stretched into the kitchen, “Momma” McCormick said, “Well, who do we have here?”
I told her my name, and she said, “Well you just sit down right here and let Momma get you something to eat.” I didn’t dare tell her that I wasn’t hungry. She was a formidable figure of a woman. I decided it would be best to just be quiet and eat.
My friend sat down next to me and pulled a picture out of the bag he carried home from school. “Momma, my teacher told me to draw a picture of myself when I’m older, me being what I want to be when I grow up.” He handed her the picture and Momma’s eight mile smile lit up the room. She said, “Baby, this is beautiful,” and she taped it to the front of the refrigerator. My friend said, “Momma, do you think I can be a musician?” The picture was my friend playing the guitar. That’s what he wanted to do when he grew up. “Honey,” Momma said, “I believe you can. And God believes you can. Now do you believe, too?”
My friend sat up in his chair as if the voice of the Almighty was ringing through the room. “Yes, Momma. I believe I can.” And my friend left the table and ran up the stairs to his bedroom. The next thing I heard were the faint tones of what sounded like a guitar, only I wasn’t sure of the tune. I wasn’t really sure if it was a guitar or their cat fell down the stairs.
My friend never returned. After a few minutes, I thanked Momma McCormick and went home.
The next day I saw my friend. We talked about him being a guitar player. “Momma says I can, and she says God says I can, so I figure I can, that’s all. I believe I can play. And I just started learning at Christmas.” It was February. That explained the confusion about the sounds I heard the day before.
After the school year ended, I lost track of my friend. I went to the home and Momma said he’d moved back in with his family. And up until about three years ago, I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear of him again.
Then, by accident, I was looking up the tour schedule of a rather famous rock star to see if he was coming to the area. And when I got on his website, there was my friend, standing there, holding a guitar.
A few weeks later, I’d made contact with him and invited him to dinner. He remembered me. We talked about Momma McCormick and his time in the foster home. “Because of her, I made it,” he said, “she instilled a sense of faith in me. She believed in me, and she taught me that God believed in me too. So I kept at it. If I had Momma and God behind me, I figured I couldn’t lose. I believed without any doubt. No matter what happened to me throughout my life, from that moment on, I had faith. And I kept practicing. I knew I’d arrive at that place, the one she believed I could reach, if I just persisted.”
“Here, let me show you something.” He went back to his car and came back with a guitar case. He opened it up, pulled out his glistening six string, and flipped it over. “I have this engraved on the back of every guitar I play,” he said, and showed me the engraving. It said, “I believe you can. God believes you can. Now do you believe…?”
“Faith is a belief, sure, but it’s a knowing," said my friend. “It’s a sense within you that, if you just keep at something, the results you dream of will become a reality.” My friend put his guitar back in its case and said, “On the wall of my office is a picture my wife gave me a couple of years ago. The first two lines go like this: “It starts with a dream. Add faith, and it becomes a belief.” I dreamed I could play the guitar. Momma gave me the faith, and it became a belief.” “And now, here I am.” My friend, stretched out his arms, and smiled. He said, “Faith started me on the path of perseverance and patience. Given time, and a lot of practice, and it turned into a dream come true.” “But be not mistaken,” he said, “All of my dreams began with faith. Without faith, I wouldn’t be with you today.”
And with that, my friend held his glass of iced tea, held it to the sky, and said, “To Momma McCormick, and to the faith she brought into my life.”
We clinked our glasses together, and the words of Momma McCormick came back into my head, “I believe you can, God believes you can, now do you believe?”