"What does Christianity mean to a ninety-year-old — to this ninety-year-old? Last year I left my lovely home and companion of sixty-five years and moved into an assisted-living residence. Such a transition no one will imagine as easy. Yet purpose is still woven into the very fabric of my days. For the last time surely, I am the youngest kid on the block — blessed with relatively better health, and feeling happier to be alive, than most other residents here. I enjoy my fellow residents; I delight in leading them in singing or in creating verse spoof-commentaries about what's happening here. And I think continually of what good I can do for them, even if it's only moving a chair from the path of an oncoming walker. Where is Christianity in my life today? Consciously or not, it's everywhere. To borrow a medieval definition of God, it's a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. At other times, though, the spirit of Christianity becomes almost palpable, a zone of safety and nonfear around me. Twenty times a day, in my room or in the hallway, under my breath I say, "Jesus Christ, have mercy upon me.' Better than any pill.

"Kendra thinks that I am returning to the unquestioned Christianity of my childhood. For once she is mistaken. What were once truths to be believed have turned into psychological insights I understand. Faith has become experience and experience become comprehension. For example, when I was young, Christ's 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall see God' suggested to me a heavenly welfare program for the meek. Today that saying reveals an astute insight into egotism, about how those swollen with pride or vanity cannot see anything larger than themselves. However, if I have become a child again in religious matters, I'll recall that Jesus said it is as children that we enter the kingdom of heaven. I would not mind being a child again, with childhood's freshness and wonder, and I know which child I would be. When our older daughter, Karen, was seven and Gael was four, I overheard them in their room one Sunday night when they were supposed to be asleep. Karen was whispering about us. 'They talk so much about God. I don't get it.' Gael said she did get it, but Karen said a little four-year-old could not possibly understand. 'Oh, I do,' Gael answered. 'They are saying God is everything. God is everywhere. God is in me.' I am the four-year-old who would say that. I am also this ninety-year-old.

"I had to take a lifelong tour of the world's religions in order to inhabit Christianity in the spirit it was originally meant, in the way my four-year-old daughter understood it. I survey that long time, and my mind settles upon that moment long ago when I was visiting Mabel Martin, my college sweetheart, in Arkansas. We were driving down a back road along which an old black man was slowly trudging. Against all rules of segregation and societal convention Mabel pulled over and said, 'Sir, would you care for a ride?' How simple it seemed to me then: whoever gives this man a ride is a Christian. How simple. And how lovely."