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During my daily commute down Price Road, I am possessed by the spirit of a 51-year-old black woman named Della, who came to me straight from the heart of the South.

The glorious expression of gospel music is often too much for my small white frame to handle. But Della’s hands reach toward mine, the music offering me strength.

I hear the choir praise their Lord, proclaim they’ve scaled city walls only to be with Him, and I can’t help but be taken away to a place in my mind that not even the strongest identity or healthiest peer group can comprehend.

In the past few weeks, the hyperspeed luxury of college life has caught up with me. I don’t spend enough time with the people I love, I’m constantly attending classes I don’t much care for, and time commitments and obligations have my size-10 feet between a rock and a hard place.

Enter faith.

These days, certainly among most college students, the subject of faith comes up very infrequently. In fact, I can’t recall the last conversation I’ve had with someone my own age about answering to a higher power of any sort.

Not surprisingly, the issue goes deeper.

How many times have you heard someone say they believe in God, but aren’t “religious?” Or they’re agnostic, meaning they believe in a higher power of some kind, yet have no idea as to how it manifests itself in our daily lives?

Inevitably, though, the conversation stops there, and the thought isn’t pushed further into defining just what that higher power is and what kind of lifestyle or ethos it calls for.

Families traditionally served as a continuation of faith throughout generations; in the past, you’d more likely than not subscribe to the same religion as your parents, grandparents, etc.

Yet, with the breakdown of traditional families since the 1960s, this involuntary continuation has been interrupted.

Today, many young people have traded the religions of their parents for new ideas about the powers that guide their lives.

In many ways, this is good. The rigid beliefs, prejudices and practices of traditional religions are often cast aside by young people as they search for a more universal understanding of existence; yet that same process can leave little specific belief left.

Oftentimes, though, all that remains are vague notions of a higher power and a very basic sense of social conduct.

A sense of guidance, personal accountability and the specific concept of a power greater than you — to whom you are answerable — are left general and unclear.

In any manifestation, faith, at its very least, can be simply defined as hope. It is hope that things will get better, or your successes will continue. It is placing hope in your own strength and in the integrity of others. Faith is belief in whatever figure or concept you most closely identify with and following in that example as best you can.

Faith is hope in an ideal.

By no means do I encourage anyone to start attending services of “x” religion. Far be it, in fact.

I do, however, encourage you to find the majestic, uplifting hope of faith in your daily life. For me, it’s listening to gospel music and realizing that love, compassion and perspective are some pretty damn fine ideals to live up to.

The weight of the world melts away when I am reminded that there are far bigger and better things out there than my pissant little problems. I have faith that I can meet them.

And Della’s with me every step of the way..

Alex can be reached by e-mail at

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