A lesson on love from new "family"
"The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." - Eden Ahbez
Growing up, I loved when my dad came home from work.
Like a loyal dog, each evening I'd listen for the sound of his car door, race to the backdoor and leap into his arms. He'd set his briefcase down, carry me to a nearby chair and we'd sit together. Dad would ask me questions, make me laugh and made me feel as if I was the only person in the world who mattered to him. In a family with six kids, it made me feel incredibly special knowing unequivocally that I was my dad's favorite child. [I've subsequently learned Dad took the time and invested his love to ensure my five siblings felt this exact same way, too!]
As we sat together, I'd trace the veins on his hands with my index finger, thinking someday my own children would do the same with me.
It was an expectation that was squelched after losing my fingers to amputations after the fire. Back then, it was difficult to imagine that some girlfriend ever would take my new hands in hers; impossible to imagine a child doing so.
And yet, one of the greatest gifts for me was not only taking Beth's hand, but in my early days as a father when Jack (our firstborn) reached up for the very first time and took my hand as we walked together. Jack wasn’t all that worried that my hand might be a bit different. I was his dad and he loved me. For him, that was enough.
That sacred embrace of a little hand reaching for mine continued through the embrace of his brothers Patrick and Henry. It continues to this day with my youngest, Grace.
We all have someone who taught us what love looks like.
Chika's lesson on love
For author Mitch Albom, he learned about love from numerous individuals throughout his life. Some have been celebrated in his books that have been translated into dozens of languages and sold more than 40 million copies.
Although many might assume Professor Morrie Schwartz – from Tuesdays with Morrie – as the one who taught Mitch about real love, it was in fact a very different character, from a very different part of the world, at a very different age.
In his new book, Finding Chika, Mitch shares the story of a little girl born in Haiti three days before the earthquake shook that impoverished country into even deeper poverty. Chika never knew her father, lost her mother during childbirth and ended up in an orphanage sponsored by Mitch and his wife, Janine.
As a five-year-old, Chika was diagnosed with inoperable and terminal brain tumor. It would likely claim her life in a few months. So Mitch and Janine invited her into their home in Detroit, in the hopes of providing a bit more time. Over the following two years of procedures, doctor's appointments, late nights and great challenges, they learned from this remarkable, gutsy, joy-filled little one about real courage, formidable faith, unadulterated curiosity and a heart that zests for life. They learned what real love looks like.
After her passing, Mitch shares part of what he learned from Chika:
I remember when you and I were walking and, without prompting, you reached out and took my hand, your little fingers sliding into mine. I would like to tell you how that felt, Chika, but it is too big for words.
I can only say that it made me feel like a father. Nearly all that I learned about that role, I learned from the man who raised me, and the rest I learned from you.
[My friends, Mitch Albom is one of my favorite authors and a dear friend. Listen to our conversation about Chika on today’s Live Inspired Podcast Monday Moments segment. Far from being a story about death, it's one about great love and abundant life.]
Who are your teachers?
As Eden Ahbez reminds us, and Mitch models for us by inviting Chika into his family, we can simplify our lives by putting a greater focus on learning to love and be loved in return. Frequently these lessons are taught by your immediate family, but "family" can be loosely defined. [Tweet this]
As Chika reveals, even children from a different part of the world, with no family of their own and dying of a tragic illness are capable of teaching not only about abundant living, but transformative love.