I have had the privilege of working with an amazing couple from Russia in my Math 100L course and they've both taught me about perseverance and showing gratitude in all things and the importance of never taking anything for granted. Timur was in my class in Winter 2013 and his wife Oksana is in my class this spring. Both of them have experienced very difficult challenges in their lives, but both of them have been a very powerful example to me. Timur's story was fortuitously recorded and shared online and may be viewed here with his permission:
Oksana's story has been no less dramatic. Last year she underwent major surgery for cancer and Timur spent many days beside her in the hospital while she was in critical condition. In his own words, Timur explained, "This great test turned out a great blessing for us. First of all, it has united our large family and surrounded us with wonderful people willing to help. It all started with tears and fear, but in the end turned into confidence and happiness. Oksana had two really hard surgeries. Her condition was very serious. the cancer was at an advanced form. The first operation took 4.5 hours instead 2. removed the cancer and metastasis, but in the operation has been touched one of the most important lymph vessels. Within two days she had lost about two liters of lymph. We were very scared. The chief surgeon decided on a second operation. it was necessary to block the lymph channel. And he did it. But the next day the lymph flowed again. We got the inspiration that she need a blessing again. After the blessing of the priesthood lymph began to flow slowly. It has become for us a time of miracles. Time of hope and faith. Time of love and care. Now she feels much better..."
Oksana has done extremely well in my Math 100L course and has led the way in showing her gratitude for her blessings. From all her writing this semester, she has never once mentioned the fact that last year she was perilously close to death. If I had not known her husband, I never would have guessed the things she has passed through. This week she wrote a message that touched me again. She wrote in her own words, "The more we are granted the more responsibility we have. It can be something material like money, things, houses, companies, land and so on, and it can be something non-material like knowledge, revelations, relationships, qualities of our character and so on. We are also responsible for other people sometimes, for our bodies, for our thoughts, actions, agency and our life in general. We are given a lot actually. Even this Earth… We are not the main creator and owner of the Earth but we are given it to use it and manage everything it has. So we’ll be asked by God how we used what we have. We need to be wise and reliable servants. We should avoid taking for granted everything we have, we should use and manage it in the Lord’s way, since everything belongs to Him and He trusts us."
Her words that we should avoid taking for granted everything we have impressed me how much and how often I've taken important things for granted and succumbed to feelings of entitlement, but this must never be!
I am thankful for the example of students like Timur and Oksana. I am thankful for the gospel and the hope that it gives me. I am thankful to play a small part in this great Pathway program that is giving an opportunity for many of God's children around the world to obtain higher education and more career opportunities that they might not have had otherwise, and especially, for giving me the opportunity to get to know these wonderful people a little bit and hopefully encourage them along their way.
Last year I wrote a song in an effort to express some of the things I am thankful for. You are welcome to listen to the song here at this link: https://app.box.com/s/u36bycj780qsdobs942l