Recently while I was browsing through Netflix, I came across an old movie released not so long ago by the name ‘Evan Almighty’. This movie is a sequel to the blockbuster movie ‘Bruce Almighty’ released in 2003. It chronicles the life of Evan Baxter who was an antagonist in the first movie. Evan Baxter in this movie moves on from being the news announcer to being a first time senator. As the perks of moving to Washington and an improved profile in society begins to dawn on the Baxter family, ‘God’ (played by Morgan Freeman) from the first movie pays a visit. This time his demand is simple at asking Evan Baxter to build an ark. Before he could even protest, animals start following him, he grows a beard which much to his chagrin refuses to go away. He is forced to attend the senate meeting sporting one and during one of the sessions for a land reform bill announced by Senator Long, he magically transforms into the Biblical Noah with flowing robes and all. Publicly humiliated, he decides to follow his true calling and builds the ark all by himself and his three children. His wife who in the beginning of the movie was seen earnestly hoping for more family togetherness, is disappointed by how strangely her husband has been behaving of late, decides to leave him. She is met by ‘God’ in a restaurant, who reminds her about how he answers people’s prayers. The following dialogue spoken by ‘God’ is nothing short of revolutionary and are the best lines in the whole movie.
God: Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If one prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If one prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?
The movie then shows how Evan goes on and builds the ark and on the day of the flood, people who were seen belittling him are taken in for a great surprise when the dam erupts in Long Lake and it ends up destroying their homes. The ark saves them just in the nick of time and the movie reveals how Senator Long in cohort with private building contractors flouted all rules of construction safety for profit. His bill to privatize and take over national parks where all the animals lived, was defeated by God who acted through Evan in building the ark. The movie though heavy in religious overtones, had enough comic elements to keep you interested till the end.
‘Give and you shall receive’ is a common refrain I’ve heard from childhood. It is said that more you give, the more you will receive. I used to remember while growing up, a common prayer thread in daily prayers was “God we pray for the sick, poor and the needy. Please heal them, care for them and provide for them, just as you do for us”. I used to wonder after years and years of prayers, the numbers of the sick, poor and the needy never ceases or changes. Times change, countries prosper, people grow, yet it seems that there will always be some poor, sick or needy person desperate for help and attention. This paradox always used to amaze me.
Slowly this paradox clears itself to an understanding that these people are kept in front of us by God as opportunities on how to be good in our life. Our ability to consider and empathize with these people epitomizes our true worship. Religious worship has always been defined as chants and prayers to an unseen God and never as acts of service. Even Jesus during his ministry emphasized on service by devotion rather than devotion through rituals. The events during and after his death epitomizes this very fact.
Everyday in our life, we come across many opportunities that would enable that one random act of kindness, which is disguised and waiting for us to unravel. Most of the time, the intricacies and demands of modern life, makes it tough for us to realize them. Even in the movie, it was seen how Evan in the beginning was shooing away a stray dog that wandered into their brand new property and how God opens him to accepting this animal to be part of their family.
To conclude, I would like to showcase this video of an US veteran, Jim Wolf who having struggled for decades with poverty, homelessness and alcoholism, sitting in a chair as he gets his beard trimmed, a new haircut and new clothes. This random act of kindness by total strangers to Jim Wolf, changes his life from then on.