Mitch Albom found his spirituality’s second wind writing his most recent book.
The bestselling author of Tuesdays With Morrie and The Five People You Meet in Heaven said that when he penned 2009’s Have a Little Faith, his own capacity for belief was bottoming out. It took two extraordinary men of the cloth to transform his faith from lost to found.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Albom reflects upon his relationships with Rabbi Albert L. Lewis and Pastor Henry Covington. The former was a New Jersey Jew possessing plentiful spiritual wisdom, while the latter was an ex-convict turned Detroit clergyman. In between the two lies the tale of a man’s faith resurrected and recovered. It’s a remarkable story coming to all-new audiences when it airs as an ABC TV movie this Sunday during Thanksgiving weekend.
CP: “Have a Little Faith” is a TV adaptation of your 2009 book of the same name. What do you think of the transformation from page to screen?
Albom: I’ve had this experience now four times. A book is a book and a movie is a movie. Changes take place in between the two. Still, this is the truest adaptation to date. All the essential points of the book made it into the movie.
CP: Bradley Whitford plays you in the TV special. How did he do portraying you?
Albom: I have sympathy for anyone who plays me. I think Bradley is an excellent actor and extraordinarily talented. He did a great job.
CP: You met Pastor Henry Covington (played by Laurence Fishburne in the film version) in Detroit. What do you think of that city now having spent so much time working there?
Albom: I’ve lived in Detroit for 26 years. I’m proud of my city and resilience, its spirit and the people who live here.
Henry’s church is emblematic of that. Both the church and the city have taken hard hits but they keep going. Here in Detroit we persevere very well. Henry was a dear friend of mine.
CP: You met the Rabbi Albert Lewis (played by Martin Landau in the film version) as a child and reconnected with him as an adult. How did he affect your life?
Albom: It took me 250 pages to write about that impact. As a child, I was scared of him as he seemed like a towering superhero of faith. As an adult, he became a teacher and a mentor. He showed me what it is like to live a life guided by the good, principle and faith. I never came away from a visit with him without having learned something about how to be better myself.
CP: Both Covington and Lewis helped you reflect on that nature of faith. What did you discover about it?
Albom: I had been very cynical about faith when I wrote that book. I had been indoctrinated as a youth and then just walked away from it and didn’t practice it at all. It seemed like faith pulled people apart more then pulled people together. When I really started talking with the rabbi and the pastor, I began to lose a lot of my cynicism. I now see more value in faith and embrace it.
CP: A key part of Lewis’ teaching is finding one’s “glory” or personal calling in life. Have you found yours?
Albom: If I have, I think it lies in my ability to tell stories that get people to help one another. I’ve been able to do that with churches in Detroit and even missions in Haiti.
When I was younger, I wanted to create. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve wanted to make a difference. It feels good watching those two things come together at this stage of my life and using what God gave me. It’s a good use of my time and ability.
CP: You delivered Lewis’ eulogy after spending several years preparing it for him. What was that like?
Albom: I had to go with what was strongest in my heart. That was the best thing to do in hindsight. It was good catching the memories that jumped right up. I had a new appreciation for what he did every week. I still felt like I was fulfilling a promise that was important to me. It was humbling.
CP: Why is a story like this important? What can it teach us about religion and faith?
Albom: You can walk away from faith early in your life and come back to it. It’s not a one-way street. We also don’t have to use faith as something to divide us. When practiced in its purest form, it pulls us together even if we believe in different things. If we focus on what we have in common, we’re unified.
CP: Proceeds from both your book and certain screenings of its film version have gone to Covington’s A Hole in the Roof Foundation and the Rabbi Albert Lewis Fund. How vital is participating in charity work like that to you?
Albom: It’s an absolutely essential part of my life. I can’t imagine any part of the rest of my life where it isn’t integral.
When you’ve been blessed with good fortune like I have, you have to devote time to giving some of it back. It’s almost mandatory. Even people who don’t have much have time and energy. I think service is a huge part of what every American in every house can do.