By Joanna Thurmann
There is something extra special at Faith Formation Conference this year, and it requires a box of tissues. It is a showing of the documentary film, The Human Experience. Like life itself, the film is worth every minute.
Released by Grassroots Films in 2008, the movie explores the answers to life’s toughest questions through the experiences of Cliff and Jeff, two brothers in search of meaning, hope, and forgiveness.
The brothers first live among the homeless of New York City during one of the coldest weeks on record. One woman contrasts the care and concern received by lost street dogs with her own experience of loss and invisibility. Among the disabled and abandoned children of Peru, the brothers meet Angela, a little girl who had been severely abused and disabled by her father, and a boy born with only one limb. Both their pain and laughter are unforgettable. They then visit an AIDS clinic and a leper colony in Ghana.
The film is interspersed with news clips and expert commentaries that address these same questions. Who am I? Why am I here? Does my life make any difference?
The answers that Cliff and Jeff find are both profoundly simple and surprising. Life is a treasure. Family is everything. Even in the deepest suffering, there is significance. But life without faith would be unbearable.
Those happiest, it seems, are those who can say most confidently, “I am here for a purpose. My existence is to help other people.” We have to recover this language of humanity, says one theologian. “When we suffer with a person, our relationship with them is deepened.” We know this of Christ. Love and death are at the heart of the crucifixion.
The annual Faith Formation Conference will be held November 6-7 at Santa Clara Convention Center. Advance rate is available through September 30. The Human Experience will be showing twice, at 4:30 PM and 7:30 PM on Friday, November 6, followed by discussion with the movie’s producer Joe Campo. One free ticket is included with each registration.
Visit faithformationconference.com for more information.