Today's News

Saturday, March 3, 2001

The real way to live is to give, says Mitch Albom

By Laura Lane

More than 2,000 orthopaedists and guests turned out to hear Tuesdays With Morrie author Mitch Albom to expound upon the valuable lessons on living-and dying-which he learned as Lou Gehrig's disease slowly took the life of Morrie Schwartz. As eloquently as written in the book, which has been a New York Times best seller since 1997, Albom articulated what Schwartz taught him during his last few months.

"I'm just saying what Morrie would say if he were here," Albom said after he spoke in the Gateway Ballroom at the Moscone Center.

Albom had first met Schwartz at Brandeis University when, as a freshman, he enrolled in Schwartz's sociology class. By the time Albom graduated, he had taken every one of Schwartz's classes, becoming close friends with Schwartz. Despite his promise to keep in touch, Albom soon became absorbed in his successful sportswriting career.

Sixteen years passed. Then, flipping the channels one night, he saw Schwartz on television alongside newscaster Ted Koppel, who was featuring Schwartz and his last class: the experience of dying. Soon, Albom was at Schwartz's side and, like a diligent student, continued to visit every Tuesday.

As a result, Albom explained, he wrote a book that not only helped to pay Schwartz's medical expenses but also one that expanded the classroom to include millions of readers. Speaking at the Academy conference, he continued, extends the classroom to people in the audience.

"I think some lessons I learned might be of some value," he said after the engagement.

Healing was the main theme as he acknowledged the audience as people who heal with hands, instruments, and tools. More powerful healing, however, comes from another source, he said.

"The greater healing power we have comes from your heart," Albom said. "It will not lead you astray."

That kind of healing starts with the everyday interaction with people-both patients and family. He illustrated this by saying, "People before cell phones. People before work."

And people before anger and hurt feelings, he explained as he told of Schwartz's regret of never having forgiven a close friend. "Forgive everyone. Forgive everything," he said. "Don't wait until your dying day.

Albom also highlighted Schwartz's conviction that the real way to live is to give. Through the example of buying new cars and always wanting more for yourself, Albom explained that "you're never satisfied because taking never makes you feel alive."

Orthopaedists commenting after the engagement said that the speech will have lasting impact.

Paul S. Docktor, MD, from Denver, Colo. said that the speech gave greater purpose to his work. "His speech has a tremendous sense of meaning to what we do in the healing arts."

Bala C. Marar, MD, of Benicia, Calif. said that he looks forward to spending more time listening to his patients and being even more empathetic. Most importantly, the speech gave Dr. Marar a new perspective on his life.

"This sort of reminds you of other things in life besides work," he said. "I hope to live a more balanced life."

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Last modified 03/March/2001 by IS