When you see a panhandler staggering and begging on the street, you want to hope that he'll get his act together and find his way to stability and sobriety. You rarely have a chance to "see" the character decades later. Where did he or she land? But that's the setting and framework for Edward Grinnan's very personal story, which anchors THE PROMISE OF HOPE.
With a graduate degree in playwriting from Yale, Grinnan might have had a leg up on a New York career. But at age 29 he was drinking himself precariously close to death and begging spare change from strangers. Where is he today? He's editor-in-chief of the country's premier inspirational magazine, Guideposts. Here in THE PROMISE OF HOPE, he tells his story of despair and recovery, organized around nine "keys to powerful personal change": honesty, willingness, imagination, commitment, faith, forgiveness, acceptance, resilience and love. Grinnan is most compelling when he tells the story of Rudy, his best-pal older brother who had Down's syndrome and tragically died when Edward was nine.
Some writers would have given more detail, describing more days along their journey. But Grinnan chose to veer away from his story and intersperse others'. For more than 20 years Grinnan has been interviewing people for Guideposts, who themselves have triumphed over adversity or chosen to walk a new path based on hope and faith. And every chapter (based on one of the "keys") introduces interview subjects whose fortitude and vision particularly inspired Grinnan, though at this point the details are vague. His personal story focuses largely on his painful, youthful days, not on his more recent decades of personal and professional growth.
His interview stories include such notables as Richard Stearns, president of World Vision, and baseball player Tommy Herr. Others are known in smaller spheres: Lori Schneider, who, despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, climbed the world's great "seven summits," culminating with Mount Everest. And Amy Pressley Palacio, who, after September 11, 2001, worked for a weight-loss goal --- 100 pounds in five months --- so she could meet a lifelong dream of enlisting in the US Navy. She'd "answered the call of this tragedy, reaching for a distant dream she had nearly abandoned and finding the willingness to achieve it."
Grinnan's chapter on acceptance includes a heartening story of his Guideposts boss Van Varner --- realizing that "in his sixties" he was not physically able to meet his dream of climbing to the top of "legendary Ayers Rock" in Australia --- though he tried. Did he see defeat? No. Varner told Grinnan, "I was suddenly quite amazed at myself.... I'd done my best but at my age I wasn't going any higher. I didn't have to. I could completely accept that. There are limits. I had found mine.... I felt blessed because three-quarters of the way up Ayers Rock, I was seeing one of the most magnificent vistas anyplace on God's earth, and it made me very happy."
THE PROMISE OF HOPE is a good read and a nice gift book for someone needing a spurt of hope and faith.
Reviewed by Evelyn Bence on May 1, 2011