“Me? God?” The old man tilted back his head and laughed out loud, his face
turning red with the exertion. “I’ve been called many things in my life, but
never God. It must be my white beard. Maybe God has a white beard too. I
Tie Li found herself smiling back at the kind face looking down at her. “I
sorry,” she said shyly. “I was hoping to find Him here. I need to talk to Him.”
The man settled himself onto the bench beside her. “Well, my little
friend, you’ve come to the right place. This is God’s house, or at least one of
them. He likes for people, even little people such as you, to come and talk to
Tie Li stretched out her hand. “I’m Tie Li Parks. Who are you?”
“Rabbi Shuster,” he said, shaking the girl’s hand warmly.
“Glad to meet you, Rabbi Shuster,” Tie Li said. “You look like nice man.”
“Oh, I do the best I can, not being God and all.” The old rabbi laughed
again, deep down in his belly. Then he turned to the girl. “Now, what is this
about wanting to talk to the Almighty?
“Tie Li became serious. “I need to ask Him something, something very
important. But I don’t know how to find Him.”
“The whole world needs to find Him.” A sadness crept into the eyes of
the old man as he spoke, “But so few really try. So very few.”
“You help me?” Tie Li implored, looking up at the man. “You show me
The man’s wrinkled and weatherworn hands gently encircled Tie Li’s.
He studied her for a moment. Her eyes reflected a feeling that sparked a
distant memory in his own heart–a memory he had tried to erase.
“Why, little one? Why do you search for God?”
Tie Li looked down at the floor. The only sound in the room was the
muffled cadence of traffic in the street, straining through the stained-glass
windows and echoing softly in the rafters. “I afraid He is gone away forever.”
“And that now there is only pain and death?” The old man spoke in a
Tie Li looked up in surprise. “Yes, only pain and death.”
Rabbi Shuster stood to his feet. “Come, I want to show you something.”
He took the girl’s hand and led her down the long aisle to the front of the
room. Pointing up toward the ceiling, he asked, “What do you see there?”
“A star. A big star.
“That is the Star of David. It represents my people, my homeland. I am
proud when I see that star because of what it means to me and to a whole
nation. But there was a time–”
The old man seemed to grow weak. He sat down heavily on a nearby
bench, his eyes not leaving the star. “There was a time when that star meant
only death, when I felt that God had left this world forever.”
Tie Li looked into the old man’s face. His eyes seemed to be gazing at
scenes too painful to express. She saw a hurt that was the same as hers. It
was as if she were looking into a mirror, an old faded and cracked mirror.
The rabbi continued. “It was when I was a young man living in a faraway
country. My father was a rabbi, a good man, a kind man. In my home I felt
safe and secure. Then the war came. We had to wear the star on our coats.
The star said to everyone,’This man is a Jew, a low-class citizen, an enemy
of the government.’ ”
The old man hesitated, allowing long-forgotten feelings to rise once
again in his soul. “They treated us like sheep. We were herded away from our
homes, away from our towns. They put us in trains, and finally in big
concentration camps. And then . . . my family . . .”
The man lifted his hands to his face. “Gone, they are all gone.”
Tie Li walked over and placed her arms around the man’s shoulders.
They wept together, the old rabbi and the orphan. They cried for each other,
for the millions who had died in a thousand wars, for the world lost to evil men
and nations, for the children without parents, and the parents robbed of their
children. But most of all, they cried for those who must live and remember the
pain of losing everything.
When the man could speak again, he continued. “For some reason I
made it through the war alive. I don’t know why I was allowed to live, but I did.
One thing I felt certain of. God had left forever. He had packed His bags and
moved to some far-off corner of the universe.
“I grew bitter. When I came to this country, I determined never to need
God again, never to say His name, never to even think about Him. I
said,’What God would allow such a war? Why should I worship a God who
stands by and lets such a thing happen?’ ”
Tie Li spoke softly. “Why you change your mind?”
A smile slowly spread across the old man’s face. He looked at Tie Li.
She saw that the hurt had left his eyes. “Love,” he said simply. “It was love.
Some kind people cared enough for me to accept me into their lives. They
accepted my hurt, my sorrow, my rebellion– everything. It was those
wonderful people who loved me back to God.
“You see, God had not left man. Man had left God, and in my own way,
so had I. But under all the rubble of war, after the bombs had stopped falling
and the gas chambers were closed, there still remained a tiny spark of love in
The old man cupped Tie Li’s face in his hands. “So you see, my little
friend, as long as there is one heart willing to love another heart, God is still
here. He is not gone. And to find Him, all you have to do is speak to Him with
your heart. I promise you, He will hear.”
Tie Li gazed into the face of the rabbi, absorbing the words he had
spoken. She searched deep into her own feelings, picking through the pieces
of her past, trying to find the love she had once held in her heart. She thought
of her lost home and family, of the smiles that once filled her life. Then she
thought of Mr. and Mrs. Parks, how they had opened their hearts to her and
tried to make her happy.
Finally, she thought of Tony–his gentle, caring attention to her every
need. In her mind she could see him bending in the grass, lifting the wounded
chipmunk in his hands. She could see his smile as he waited for her after
school, and how he always laughed at the way she said his name.
Tie Li jumped to her feet. “I go now,” she said. “Let me take you in my
truck,” the old man said, running after her down the aisle. “It’s almost dark
The ride home seemed to take forever. As the truck rattled down the
driveway, Tie Li could see the Parks heading for their car. When they saw Tie
Li sitting in the front seat of the bouncing pickup, Mrs. Parks ran to meet
The girl found herself wrapped in the woman’s arms almost before the
truck had come to a complete stop. “We were so worried, Tie Li,”she said
breathlessly. “We thought something must have happened to you.”
“I OK. Rabbi Shuster take care of me.”
Mr. Parks stretched out a hand to the driver. “Thank you, Rabbi. Thank
you for bringing her back to us. We were about to go searching for her.”
“No problem, Mr. Parks,” he said with a smile. “We had a good visit
As the men were lifting the girl’s bike down from the back of the truck,
Tie Li saw Tony standing alone by the barn. She walked slowly over to him.
“Tony,” she said, taking his hand in hers, “I need to tell you something.
But first, please forgive me for saying bad things today.”
Tony’s voice faltered with emotion. “I forgive you, Tie Li. I forgive you.”
“And, Tony”–Tie Li looked up into the eyes of her brother–“I love you.”
In an instant the brother was holding the little girl tightly in his arms. No
more words were spoken.
The old man wiped a tear from his wrinkled cheek as he climbed back
into his truck. Driving away, he smiled. God had once again found a home in
a heart that was lost.