Albom’s new book, Have a Little Faith: A True Story (Hyperion, New York City; $23.99; 272 pages/hardcover), tells of his own return to faith and his relationship with a dying rabbi and the pastor of a struggling innercity Detroit church. He will be in Syracuse on Friday, Nov. 6, to speak at a benefit for It’s About Childhood and Families, at the Holiday Inn Conference Center, 411 Electronics Parkway, Liverpool.
It’s About Childhood and Families was founded in 2000 by Michael Gilbert, who has worked in the mental health field for more than 15 years, including the past eight years as a psychologist with Syracuse City Schools. Gilbert is known to favor alternatives to medication for dealing with ADHD and other childhood psychological conditions. The nonprofit agency does not charge for counseling services, but instead asks that clients pay them back by donating time to local charities.
Albom’s book on faith started, like Tuesdays with Morrie, with a request. This one came from a New Jersey rabbi who contacted the noted author, sportswriter and radio talk show host and asked him to write his eulogy. “I didn’t know why he would pick me. I decided that if I was going to do it correctly, I would have to get to know him. It turned into an eight-year journey,” he said.
Albom, 51, grew up a conservative Jew and went to religious school through high school. “I was raised with a heavy dose of religion,” he told The New Times when reached by phone during a stopover in Chicago. “As a young man I walked away from Judaism and didn’t have a whole lot to do with it until I got this request from the rabbi.”
Albom’s book tour is different this time from those he undertook after his last two publications, which were novels, and his Syracuse visit will be no exception to his new rule—no bookstores. “When you write a book you usually go on tour by visiting the biggest bookstore in town, fill it up and sign a bunch of autographs,” said Albom. “I told my publisher that this time I didn’t want to do any bookstores, and they weren’t too happy about it. This book is about an eight-year journey. I wanted to go to churches, synagogues, places like that. I didn’t want to stand in a big bookstore with the latte machine going off talking about this kind of stuff. It’s About Childhood and Families seemed right because so much of the book deals with those kinds of issues.”
The response to Have a Little Faith has kept the already busy Albom on the road almost perpetually. He continues his radio show and writes for a number of sports publications, including his hometown Detroit Free Press. The reaction to the book, said the author, has been so extraordinary it feels like a flashback to Tuesdays with Morrie. I asked the man who writes about everything from football to religious faith what he saw as the difference between faith and religion. “Faith is believing in something bigger than yourself. It’s goodness for goodness’ sake. It’s believing that your fellow man is a child of God just like yourself.
“In a good world, religion is how you put that faith into action. Sometimes, unfortunately, people claim religion and commit atrocities under that banner.”
So now that he’s written a book about a eulogy, do a lot of people ask him lot to write their eulogy? “Sometimes, but I always give them the same response—that I hope that will be a long time down the road, and I hope you will have met someone else by then.” He hasn’t really thought about who would do his eulogy. If you’d like to ask him, tickets, which cost $25, $30 at the door, are still available through www.ticketmaster.com. To learn more about It’s About Childhood and Families, call 382-0541.