We never know who will be impacted by the small, minor actions that we take today. Or how they will be impacted.
Many moons ago, a man sat at a desk for the Miami Herald. On the desk in front of him was package after package of submissions for a reporter position. He was in charge of the Life section of the paper.
He opens an envelope. Scans the cover letter. Looks through the clippings. Tosses it in the trash.
Not a good fit.
He opens another envelope. Followed by another. Each meet with the same fate.
Into the circular file cabinet.
One envelope, which looks like the others, reveals its contents. It’s from a young man in New York City. He reads. Nope. The kid is not a good fit.
But he keeps reading. And reading some more.
Finally, he gathers the content of the envelope. Slide them all back in. But rather than join the others in the circular file cabinet, he walks the package across the office to another editor. Who just happens to be looking for a reporter for the sports section.
“Take a look at this guy,” the man said to the editor. “He’s pretty good.”
The editor was also impressed. He called the young man, who quickly took the job. The young man was struggling to make a career out of writing. Now this was it. His big break.
That job launched his professional writing career. A writing career that made him a four time New York Times best selling author.
That young man was Mitch Albom.
When Sherry asked me if I would be interested in going to see Mitch Albom speak, I hoped against hope that I would learn what made this author tick. What drove him or compelled him to write these novels.
Mitch sat on stage, in front of an audience of several hundred. We all sat enraptured by his story, hanging on his every word. Sometimes we laughed with him, sometimes we cried.
The entire thesis of his talk: the impact we have on each other. Even people we don’t know.
One person who impacted Mitch was his college mentor. Learning he was dying from ALS, Mitch broke 16 years of silence to go and see his ailing mentor.
During their talks, Morrie revealed his thoughts about a number of topics. All around death. Dealing with death. Accepting your fate. How his impending death impacted his relationship with his family. Mitch thought that maybe, just maybe Morrie’s words were something to be shared with the world.
Morrie had a problem. He had racked up expensive medical bills paying for his care. After he was gone, his family would have to sell their home to pay them off.
“I proposed the idea of a the book publisher, hoping to get an advance large enough to pay those medical bills,” Mitch said. A publisher loved the story. They gave Mitch a large advance which he used to pay off those bills. Morrie’s family could keep their home.
Morrie passed away.
Mitch wrote “Tuesdays with Morrie”. Never intended it to become hit. But the words and wisdom of Morrie, the story Mitch wrapped them in, the movie that Oprah Winfrey made around it, really resonated with people. The book went on to become a New York Times best selling book.
After losing several people really close to Mitch, he wrote his next book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.” That book went on to become a New York Times best seller as well.
Now on this cold December day, Mitch talks about his follow up book “The Next Person You Meet in Heaven.”
Mitch Albom said, “But it was because of one unknown man, someone who I would never meet and never know and can never thank … who had an impact on my life. An unknown man who walked my package to the desk of the editor of the sports section.”
Mitch continued. “Without him, I probably would have never written these books. And I certainly wouldn’t be sitting with you folks today. I would have never impacted people the way I have.”
Mitch stood up to thunderous applause.
I came out of my chair. Hands clapping feverishly. Every minute of his story, every nuance touched me in a special way. Writing that serves a purpose. Writing that has an impact.
Mitch waves his hand in the air, signaling the audience to stop. “As we head into the holiday season, be kind to one another. You never know how an act of kindness will impact someone. Or how your act of kindness will inspire someone to impact another.”