Mitch Albom, an internationally renowned and best-selling author among other credits, is coming to Benton Harbor through the Southwest Michigan Economic Club on Dec. 2.
Themes of his work focus and inspire on the theme that every life matters. It promises to be a very interesting evening. Mitch has served as a shot in the arm for many who have read his books, four of which have been made into popular motion pictures.
Mitch was the last person I expected to be thinking about during a recent trip to beautiful Iceland. But one of the quotes from a departed soul in his book, the five people you meet in heaven, resounded well as I got into discussions with locals.
The quote: “That there are no random acts. That we are all connected. You can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.” Mitch’s book illustrates on the individual level how the same event can impact seemingly unrelated people so differently and so directly. Differing circumstances or perspectives, different impact.
This resonated when talking with an Icelandic tour guide and taxi driver. Their love of country provided perspective that included strong support for advances in technology, farming, health care, education and product development, including tourism, but through a lens that tempered the value of change by how it affected fellow Icelanders, not individual personal gain.
The tour guide pointed out that Icelanders pay taxes to provide universal health care for all ages, universal education through college level, and structured pension systems across industries. He saw equalizing opportunity and mingling of socio-economic sectors in the classroom as a stabilizing factor resulting in low crime rate and a unity of citizenship no matter your trade or economics.
He welcomed tourism, but with the number of annual visitors exceeding the number of residents by more than 500 percent in recent years, was concerned limits were needed so such a small citizenship was not asked to also fund tourist infrastructure to the detriment of the balance achieved in socio-economic opportunity.
Similarly, the taxi driver in a pre-dawn drive to the airport, pointed out and expressed concern over foreign corporations building plants to use the country’s geo-thermal power sources, creating pressure to dam waterfalls to create more hydro-electrical plants, a move he saw using resources unnecessarily and not benefiting citizens.
As he talked, I couldn’t help but think of another tour guide I’d seen at a World Heritage Site and stopped for a bit to listen. He was showing his group a topographical map depicting the huge ice field feeding more than ten glaciers along the south coast and interior. I’d seen several of these; awestruck by their commanding impact and beauty. He commented that with global warming, the entire ice field was expected to be gone in 100-150 years. Wait…what?
One hundred years used to sound like a lot. Now it doesn’t seem far. I look at children and realize we’re talking about the world their children will live in, only a generation away. What happens to Iceland’s seemingly countless waterfalls and endless water supply without the glaciers and ice fields?
I’m no expert. My mind can’t comprehend such massive change. I doubt anyone can.
Iceland of course is only one small example. We are all interconnected with each other and the physical world in ways we can’t always see. I’m grateful for times I’m reminded of this.
Mitch Albom’s talk might be another opportunity.
Lynn Kellogg is CEO of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Saturday in The Herald-Palladium.