Tuesdays With Morrie

Hank Mattimore
Reproduced with Permission

I find myself re-reading "Tuesdays With Morrie" for the third time. What a marvelous read! For those of you who have not read it, "Tuesdays With Morrie" is the story of an old professor dying of ALS, spending his Tuesdays with a former student, sharing with him some of life's great secrets. Despite his weakening condition, Morrie takes time to talk, not only to the young man, but to many other people who come to the old man's house with their problems.

At one point in the book, the dying man asks his former student, "Why do you think it's important for me to listen to other people's problems? Don't I have enough pain and suffering of my own?" He answers his own question. "Of course I do, but giving to other people is what makes me feel ALIVE. When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after he was feeling sad, it's as close to healthy as I ever feel."

I think most of us, as we age, can relate to Morrie's desire to feel ALIVE. We go to fitness centers or buy new clothes so we can look better. We leave the house and go on a trip to get out of our rut. We re-arrange the furniture or plant a garden or get ourselves a tummy tuck or a viagra prescription so we can demonstrate to ourselves and to others that we may be old but we're not dead. All these behaviors are very natural and perhaps helpful but I suspect that none of them are as effective as Morrie's formula for feeling really alive, giving to other people.

It's hardly a new idea. Who has not bee touched by the Prayer of St. Francis Assisi....the one that goes "It is in giving that we receive, in loving that we are loved etc." But we forget, get preoccupied with ourselves and our own issues. We're afraid to give of ourselves lest someone take advantage of us.

I recall talking to a recently retired man a while back who admitted to me that he was bored with life. I suggested to him that he consider volunteering. "Oh,no, not me," he said emphatically. "Whatever I do, I want to get paid for." He prefered being bored to, in his words, "being a sucker and working for nothing."

I don't think Morrie thought he was being taken advantage of by people who looked for his counsel, even as he was dying. Morrie was wise enough to know that he needed them as much as they needed him. We are built that way, we human beings. Despite our illusion of independence, we need one another. We need to give and to receive. The magic happens when the two become one.