Never for Granted

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:

I Thank Thee - Music & Lyrics by Tom Court - 2013
I thank thee for the morning, for the breaking of the dawn
The rising of the sun commands all darkness be gone
I thank thee for the promise all the earth shall see Him come
And shine forever in the presence of Thy Son
I thank thee for my Anna, for the sunlight on her face
The brightness of her love and all her beauty and her grace
I thank thee for the promise all our family shall be one
In love forever through the mercy of Thy Son
I thank thee for the new day, for the breaking of the chain
No longer will the night prevail; all sorrow flee away
I thank thee for the knowledge every soul will rise again
And live forever through the power of Thy Son
I thank thee for the knowledge every soul will rise again
And live forever through the power of Thy Son
We'll sing forever to the glory of Thy Son

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  • Is this you singing, Tom? What a beautiful way to express gratitude. Our Pathway students are always reminding me of how blessed I am. Thank you.

  • Tom,

    I loved this story. How amazing people are as they go through adversity. Thank you for sharing this uplifting story and song. You are truly talented.I had a few students from Russia last semester and they were awesome as well. I love how we can get to know students from all over the world and hear their faith building stories!

  • What a beautiful story, and I love your song Tom. Both are full of testimonies I needed to hear as we wrap things up this semester. 

  • Thank you for reminding us how much we have to be grateful for.  I think every student has a story.  Your students' stories really touched me.  I think we've all had students that have had to endure hard things.  I think the more we openly share our own testimony and struggles, the more students will as well.  I strongly believe that one of the purposes of the Pathway program is to help our students analyze and put into words their own beliefs and feelings.  Whether it is in a journal or verbally sharing our testimony, naming/describing our feelings benefits us.  Because your student put into words her story, it has already inspired you and many others reading it.  That is the power of writing at work!

  • Thanks for sharing this, Tom! I appreciated the stories of your students and loved the song you shared. 

    Thanks for helping me take a moment to consider my blessings -- I'd had a bit of a rough week, but this helped me remember all I have and how great it is to be a small part of all the good that happens through Pathway and BYU-Idaho. 

  • I appreciate you sharing your talents, thoughts, and insights.   My husband served his mission in Russia and has a great love for the Russian people, culture, and language.  I loved hearing about your students who live in Russian and their positive and eternal perspective that they have, even during difficulty times. Thanks for your inspiring message. 

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