REFLECTING ON MY CONVERSATION WITH MITCH ALBOM
On November 14, 2019, I met a true superhero. He greeted me, a 16 year old high school sophomore, with an extended hand and a simple “Hi, I’m Mitch.” There stood a clearly exhausted, yet still incredibly polite, Mitch Albom, the international best-selling author of books including Tuesdays With Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Have a Little Faith, and his latest work, a poignant memoir: Finding Chika: a Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family. A bit nervous, I stumbled at an attempt of an apology for having to delay our meeting and he quickly brushed it off; getting to the heart of what truly matters clearly is Albom’s thing, in and outside of print. So, I did my best to get right down to it. While he autographed 100 copies of Finding Chika, we simultaneously had a meaningful conversation. Throughout my time with Albom, I kept getting this Clark Kent vibe. Here was this ultra down-to-earth, funny, soft-spoken guy, trying to help a kid he never laid eyes on before and raise funds for a scholarship in memory of a woman he never knew. This ultra down-to-earth, soft-spoken guy also happens to be an award-winning sports journalist, radio talk show host, philanthropist, musician, and author having sold over 40 million copies of his works. Albom has achieved great success in not one, but multiple successful careers, and continues to dedicate himself to a seemingly endless list charitable endeavors, including overseeing the Have Faith Haiti Mission (www.havefaithhaiti.org).
My grandmother taught me many life lessons, one of which my uncle, Adam Glaser, memorialized in “I Am a River.” “It’s what you do, not what you say, that makes you who you are.” Those words were just song lyrics to me until I met Mitch Albom. As I listened to his simply eloquent, self-effacing responses to my questions, I discovered a remarkable example of empathetic tenacity. There truly are people who, with only altruism as their agenda, continue to cash in their own blessings of talent and a multitude of successes to help those who have not been as lucky. At the Have Faith Haiti Mission and Orphanage, the kids call him “Mr. Mitch.” Yet, they might as well just start calling him “Superman” because that’s who Mitch Album truly is.
It is true that many high profilers barter bits of their recognizability and considerable parts of their financial resources to help others in need. I sincerely extend kudos to them all for sharing some of the wealth and privilege they have accrued in their uniquely fortunate life experiences. Yet, my generation has inherited a world still plagued with a gap between equality and equity. If that abyss concerns you too, then you can understand how startling it was to gain so much hope in one conversation with a man who has dedicated decades of his life to loving and dignifying others. He has gone far beyond any donation of disposable income or the loan of a name to give credibility to a cause. I hope everyone who comes across these words will read Finding Chika, getting an intimate glimpse into the joy-filled and heartbreaking rollercoaster of one family’s journey: the Albom family’s journey. You will learn what Chika taught Mitch and his wife, Janine, and what they, as parents, taught Chika, and us all. There is wonder, beauty, and transformative magic in the greatest of all super-powers, love.
Thank you to Mitch Albom and Marc Rosenthal for affording me this incredible opportunity.
- Daniel Rutstein
November 22, 2019