EXCERPT: 'Have a Little Faith'

Read an excerpt from Mitch Albom's new book that documents peoples' faiths.

ByABC News via logo
September 28, 2009, 2:27 PM

Sept. 30, 2009— -- Mitch Albom followed the lives of two men for eight years for his new book, "Have a Little Faith." This story details the life of a young Detroit pastor who preaches to the poor in a decaying church house, and an old Jewish suburban rabbi who has embraced his own death.

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Click here to visit Mitch Albom's website.

In the beginning, there was a question.

"Will you do my eulogy?"

I don't understand, I said.

"My eulogy?" the old man asked again. "When I'm gone." His eyes blinked from behind his glasses. His neatly trimmed beard was gray, and he stood slightly stooped.Are you dying? I asked.

"Not yet," he said, grinning.

Then why-

"Because I think you would be a good choice. And I think, when the time comes, you will know what to say."

Picture the most pious man you know. Your priest. Your pastor. Your rabbi. Your imam. Now picture him tapping you on the shoulder and asking you to say good-bye to the world on his behalf.

Picture the man who sends people off to heaven, asking you for his send-off to heaven.

"So?" he said. "Would you be comfortable with that?"

In the beginning, there was another question.

"Will you save me, Jesus?"

This man was holding a shotgun. He hid behind trash cans in front of a Brooklyn row house. It was late at night. His wife and baby daughter were crying. He watched for cars coming down his block, certain the next set of headlights would be his killers.

"Will you save me, Jesus?" he asked, trembling. "If I promise to give myself to you, will you save me tonight?"

Picture the most pious man you know. Your priest. Your pastor. Your rabbi. Your imam. Now picture him in dirty clothes, a shotgun in his hand, begging for salvation from behind a set of trash cans.

Picture the man who sends people off to heaven, begging not to be sent to hell.

"Please, Lord," he whispered. "If I promise???"

This is a story about believing in something and the two very different men who taught me how. It took a long time to write. It took me to churches and synagogues, to the suburbs and the city, to the "us" versus "them" that divides faith around the world.

And finally, it took me home, to a sanctuary filled with people, to a casket made of pine, to a pulpit that was empty.

In the beginning, there was a question.

It became a last request.

"Will you do my eulogy?"

And, as is often the case with faith, I thought I was being asked a favor, when in fact I was being given one.

A few weeks earlier, Albert Lewis, then eighty-two years old, had made that strange request of me, in a hallway after a speech I had given.

"Will you do my eulogy?"

It stopped me in my tracks. I had never been asked this before. Not by anyone—let alone a religious leader. There were people mingling all around, but he kept smiling as if it were the most normal question in the world, until I blurted out something about needing time to think about it.

After a few days, I called him up.

Okay, I said, I would honor his request. I would speak at his funeral—but only if he let me get to know him as a man, so I could speak of him as such. I figured this would require a few in-person meetings.

"Agreed," he said.

I turned down his street.