I've just finished reading an extraordinary book, Tuesdays with Morrie, subtitled, An old man, a young man, and life's greatest lesson (Doubleday). A good friend sent it to me some time ago, but time pressures kept me from reading it immediately. A few days ago I picked it up, started reading and couldn't put it down. If you're like me, it will hit you right smack in the heart and leave you mulling many thoughts you've probably put on hold for years.
The book was written by Mitch Albom, a sportswriter for the Detroit Free Press. He has been voted the No. 1 sports columnist 10 times by the Associated Press sports editors. He was once a professional musician and now hosts a daily radio show on WJR in Detroit and appears regularly on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters." He has written two bestsellers, Bo and Fab Five, and has published four collections of his columns.
His latest book is named after Morrie Schwartz, a former professor at Brandeis University near Boston, Albom's alma mater. Albom talks about his graduation ceremonies and introducing Morrie, his favorite professor, to his mom and dad. Gifts were exchanged between student and professor, and then a hug. Albom promised to keep in touch, but that didn't happen. Sixteen years later, as the author was watching TV late one night, he saw Morrie in a wheelchair being interviewed on Ted Koppel's "Nightline." During those years, Morrie had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). After the diagnosis, and as his disease progressed, Morrie started jotting down his thoughts about life and living with impending death. He shared his writings with colleagues, and one fellow professor sent Morrie's musings to a writer at the Boston Globe. The newspaperman wrote a feature story on Morrie titled, "A Professor's Final Course: His Own Death." The article caught the attention of a "Nightline" producer, which led to Morrie's appearance. He would be a guest on the show three more times. But the important thing is that as a result of the first appearance, Morrie and Albom were reunited. The book chronicles a series of sporadic Tuesday visits and conversations between the professor, then in his 70s, and his former student. It's powerful stuff.
For instance, from the chapter "Taking Attendance," Albom remembers something Morrie once told him: "So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote your life to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to something that gives you purpose."
On the subject of marriage, Morrie offers these observations to his friend: "I feel sorry for your generation. In this culture, it's so important to find a loving relationship with someone because so much of the culture does not give you that. But the poor kids today, either they're too selfish to take part in a loving relationship, or they rush into marriage and then six months later they get divorced. They don't know what they want in a partner. They don't know who they are themselves-so how can you know who you're marrying?"
Later he offers more counsel on marriage: "There are a few rules I know to be true about love and marriage: If you don't respect the other person, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. If you don't know how to compromise, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you can't talk openly about what goes on between you, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. And if you don't have a common set of values in life, you're gonna have a lot of trouble. Your values must be alike." Morrie and his wife, Charlotte, had been married 44 years.
Those excerpts just scratch the surface. Tuesdays with Morrie is filled with wisdom, hope and love. It puts things in perspective, reminding us that maybe slowing down a little isn't such a bad idea.
They're real-life lessons,
Charles S. Lauer