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Mitch Albom on lasting lessons of "Tuesdays with Morrie"

"Tuesdays with Morrie" details soul-searching conversations between sports writer Mitch Albom and his dying former college professor, Morrie Schwartz. Now, 20 years after the book first came out, Albom joined "CBS This Morning" to discuss Morrie's lasting message, his orphanage in Haiti and the heart-wrenching story of a child there he and his wife cared for like a daughter.

"I think most people in their life have had a teacher, and so that's sort of their Morrie. I have people open their wallets to me and take out a picture of their grandfather or somebody like that and say, 'This is my Morrie,'" Albom said. 

Fifteen million copies of the book have been sold in 45 languages and it continues to find new readers today. 

"I think a lot of people are lost like I was at that age, sort of saying, I'm going a thousand miles an hour and nothing seems to be really meaningful. And so they relate to my character or Morrie's character."

Despite the book's massive success, it was largely ignored when Albom first tried to get it published.

"Yah, actually we got rejected a whole lot of places in this city. I still get haunted when I land here," Albom said of New York City.

Morrie's medical bills initially helped drive him to write the book. Albom thought it was a way he could raise money, and that goal kept him going after many rejections. Finally, just a few weeks before Morrie's death, Albom found a publisher that agreed to print 20,000 copies.

Mitch Albom and Morrie Schwartz

Mitch Albom/Schwartz family

"I thought I'd have them in the trunk of my car for the rest of my life," Albom said of that first batch of books.

The author is still astounded by its continued success with a younger generation at home and abroad.

Then, almost exactly 20 years after Albom reconnected with Morrie, an orphan he cared for like a daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor.

He had brought the young girl, Chika, from his orphanage in Haiti to the U.S. for what Albom hoped would be a quick surgery.

"She ended up living with us for two years and we went around the world trying to save her, and she passed away four weeks ago today," Albom said. 

Have Faith Haiti Mission / Photographer Brian Kelly

During that difficult time, though, Albom says he never felt so alive.

"Thinking like that, like any day could be the last day — well, that's what my wife and I did with Chika every day, and so you are intensely there and you never really feel that alive."

In addition to his work in Haiti, Albom has nine charities in Detroit. A result of yet another lesson from Morrie, he says. 

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