You remember Mitch Albom.
The guy from Tuesdays with Morrie? The Detroit sportswriter who had lost his way in Detroit and in life in general and needed participating in his favorite professor’s struggle with ALS to get him back to what was important in life?
After the phenomenal success of Morrie, which lead to the posthumous publication of a book by Schwartz, Albom has had a television show and written several successful novels.
For my birthday, my mom got me Have a Little Faith, Albom’s most recent foray into non-fiction.
I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised and moved.
The book essentially tells three stories during an eight-year period. The first is of Albert Lewis, Albom’s childhood rabbi who asks him to write his eulogy when that time comes. Albom agrees on the condition that he get to know Lewis. The second is the story of Henry Covingtion, a Christian preacher in Detroit who took a long and very hard road to the pulpit. The third, of course, if Albom’s recounting of his own experience with, and journey toward, an authentic, rather than received, faith.
Albom is a sportswriter to his core and Have a Little Faith bears that imprint. The book’s short chapters move briskly along as he alternates getting to know Lewis and his gradual acceptance, and later embrace, of Covington. He also intersperses excerpts from Lewis’ sermons over the years.
There are major differences between the two men.
Covington is a former addict, drug dealer and felon who spent years in prison for a murder charge he says he did not commit. Lewis, while failing once to gain admission to the rabbinical academy, had no brushes with the law. Lewis is relatively fit, while Covington is enormously overweight. Covington is black, while Lewis is white. And Lewis’ congregation has close to 1,000 families and sufficient money while Covington’s flock is tiny by comparison and is in a building with a large hole in the roof.
That said, Albom does show similarities between the two men.
Both men toil tirelessly for their G-d and are much loved by their congregants. Both have one wife and the same number of children. And both in some way touch Albom and force him to confront his own skepticism toward organized religion and spiritual belief.
Have a Little Faith is filled with poignant details about Lewis’ courage in the face of his gradual but inevitable physical decline and of Covington’s relentless search for redemption for the nefarious acts he committed earlier in his life. To his credit, Albom does show both his initial hesitation toward Covington because of his past and his movement toward a different attitude-a move that is propelled by hearing one of Covington’s churchgoers explain the man’s impact on his life.
By the end, the sermon for which Lewis asked is largely an afterthought. Albom deserves credit for this latest in his many stories and books that remind us of where life’s meaning resides through his relationships with these two leaders who had very different life histories but arrived at much the same place by the book’s end.