Chika Jeune was born three days before the devastating earthquake that decimated Haiti in 2010. She spent her infancy in a landscape of extreme poverty, and when her mother died giving birth to a baby brother, Chika was brought to The Have Faith Haiti Orphanage that Albom operates in Port Au Prince.
With no children of their own, the forty-plus children who live, play, and go to school at the orphanage have become family to Mitch and his wife, Janine. Chika’s arrival makes a quick impression. Brave and self-assured, even as a three-year-old, she delights the other kids and teachers. But at age five, Chika is suddenly diagnosed with something a doctor there says, “No one in Haiti can help you with.”
Mitch and Janine bring Chika to Detroit, hopeful that American medical care can soon return her to her homeland. Instead, Chika becomes a permanent part of their household, and their lives, as they embark on a two-year, around-the-world journey to find a cure. As Chika’s boundless optimism and humor teach Mitch the joys of caring for a child, he learns that a relationship built on love, no matter what blows it takes, can never be lost.
Told in hindsight, and through illuminating conversations with Chika herself, this is Albom at his most poignant and vulnerable. Finding Chika is a celebration of a girl, her adoptive guardians, and the incredible bond they formed—a devastatingly beautiful portrait of what it means to be a family, regardless of how it is made.
Whenever I was asked about the book that has changed my life, my answer has always been Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It will be followed by the story of how I have read it twice when I was 20 and jobless for almost a year despite my medals, and when I was 25 and drowning in the river called a quarter-life crisis. Both times I have discovered lessons and have found strength on Morrie and Albom’s wisdom.
Fast forward to 2019, after reading all his books in between, Mitch has announced his latest one — Finding Chika. It was launched November last year, but I did not buy it until my husband gave it to me as a surprise gift for his birthday last December. (Yes, it was his birthday and he gave me the gift. HAHA).
Almost a month after I first held this purple-coloured paperback, I found the courage to open it and finally read the story of Chika.
I know how special Chika is for Mitch Albom as I follow him on social media (being the fangirl that I am). I have also read about this little girl’s courage and bravery fighting a cruel tumour inside her young brain. Knowing these made me doubt if my heart is ready to read the inside story of their little family. But before Chika’s birthday, which is today January 9, I finally opened its pages and allowed myself to laugh, melt, learn, and weep, for them and with them.
Instead of reviewing the book, how it was written, how the story unfolded, what language was used, I choose to share the six life lessons I have learned from Mitch’s raw and honest anecdote of him, of Chika, and of their family with Janine. I believe they will move you and stir something inside you just like how they did to me.
Before that, if you may, please purchase a copy of the book as proceeds will be for the Have Faith Haiti Mission.
Here are the six lessons from the story of the birthday girl, the little fighter, Chika:
Lesson #1: There are many kinds of selfishness in this world, but the most selfish is hoarding time, because none of us know how much we have, and it is an affront to God to assume there will be more.
Lesson #2: The most precious thing you can give someone is time, Chika, because you can never get it back. When you don’t think about getting it back, you’ve given it in love.
Lesson #3: Everything in this world is music if you can hear it.
Lesson #4: One of the best things a child can do for an adult is to draw them down, closer to the ground, for clearer reception to the voices of the earth.
Lesson #5: There is no affliction like hopelessness. I believe it is worse than anything that strikes the flesh.
Lesson #6: What we carry defines who we are. And the effort we make is our legacy.
Happy birthday, dear Chika. I may not have known you but your story have touched and inspired me. I am sure you will never ever be forgotten. ❤