When sportswriter Mitch Albom started meeting on Tuesdays with his former professor, Morrie Schwartz, he had no idea it would one day inspire millions.
But nearly 25 years and 17 million copies of "Tuesdays with Morrie" later, Albom continues to share lessons from Morrie's life. In the latest episode of the podcast "Making Space with Hoda Kotb," Albom revealed that Morrie died before he could read a word of the book, the top-selling memoir of all time.
"He had no idea that we'd be talking about him now ... But he didn't need to, because that wouldn't've been the reason to do it. He wouldn't have said, 'Hey, let's talk now so that Hoda will be asking you some questions one day on her podcast.' He did it because it was from his heart," he said. "When you do the things from your heart, they're right."
When you do the things from your heart, they're right.
Albom arrived at the interview with two children from the orphanage he runs, Have Faith Haiti. He never intended to run an orphanage — it was another moment of serendipity for the bestselling author.
"I happened to ask the guy who had been running it, 'How come the kids aren't eating? You know, we're building all this stuff for you, and the kids aren't eating.' And he said, 'Well, I don't have any money to operate this. And I'm 84 years old.'
"And in one of those moments I said, 'Well, I could probably do this. How hard could this be?' And he said, 'Thank you, Jesus. Here it is.' And I've been running it ever since."
Albom said he wanted kids of his own, but "dragged my feet" and lost the chance. "It's probably the biggest regret of my life. But God works in funny ways, you know, because now I've got 53 children. And so does my wife. And we look at them as our kids."
Albom spends a week in Haiti each month and learned more lessons from his experiences there, including from a girl named Chika he wrote about in "Finding Chika." Chika suffered from a brain tumor, and at age 5, doctors said they should take her back to Haiti to die. Instead, she stayed with the Alboms for two years and fought her illness.
Toward the end, she couldn't walk, but Albom said she was fine with that, since he carried her everywhere. One day he was late for a radio interview and told Chika he had to leave because it was his job.
"And she crossed her arms and made that little pouty face. And she said, 'No, it isn't. Your job is carrying me,'" he said.
What we choose to carry is actually what ends up defining us.
With that sentence, Albom said, "I felt my whole soul drop down to my feet."
He realized that instead of carrying around his work, his books, his usual burdens, he had to drop all that to carry a 6-year-old who couldn't walk.
"And you realize it's no comparison," he said. "And what we choose to fill our arms with, up with, and what we choose to carry, is actually what ends up defining us."
Listen to the entire conversation on "Making Space with Hoda Kotb" wherever you find your podcasts.
Previously on Making Space: