I hope to start to tutor Natalka about the English language. And, at the same time, learn more of life than I ever could from any book.
Natalka needs to improve her language skills as a teacher of 2 and 3-year-olds at a pre-school outside Conshohocken, PA, here in the USA. She came from the “Old World,” the one behind the notorious “Iron Curtain.” And while she obtained a master’s degree in Chemistry while in Ukraine, her school “directors” want her to speak and write our language more fluently.
I agreed to volunteer. You see, Natalka has a spiritual aura about her that is contagious. Plus, she has so many wonderful stories of a far away land and a different time that it makes me grateful for many of the things I take for granted.
Like butter. She remembers not too long ago when families could not get any in her community, and one day she prayed to an Orthodox Christian Saint and received “mana” in her life. In this case, the mana was two pounds of butter.
“But you would share it,” she told me over a cup of coffee. “I learned someone needed butter, so I’d cut some, wrap it up, and leave it at their doorstep.”
Natalka would ring the bell and “run away” from the house like a little kid playing a game, leaving behind a short message to the recipient of the butter how the Saint was providing the gift.“I’d pray for boots for my little girl, my child,” this thin, petite woman told me, gesturing the whole time with her hands while raising and lowering the inflection of her voice, the spark in her eyes glowing more and more as she recalled the days before the fall of Communism in the USSR.
Natalka remembers coming across a street vendor, one with a booth. There, hanging from the top of the roof of the booth were a pair of boots. In the exact size as her daughter.
“I gave him all the money I had” she said. “It was the exact amount needed for the boots.”
For three years, Natalka said she lived a wonderfully spiritually inspired life. Once she saw what appeared as the Statue of Liberty holding up Earth’s moon and she took it as a sign for her husband, Oleg to finalize plans to come to America.
That spirituality started when visiting a monastery and receiving a book that a monk — a young man with whom she had attended high school — had secretly provided her. “The book was not supposed to leave the monastery,” she recalled. “But, he let me read it.”
“I couldn’t get over how much fun the monks were having in the monastery,” she said. “They were happy. Really happy. Smiling. Enjoying themselves. Behind the Walls. And there I was. Outside. So unhappy. I couldn’t understand why.”
Natalka said the book provided answers. No, not by the mere words written on the pages. But through the opening of her heart to a world that consisted of miracles. Ones that occurred everyday, if one patiently looked for them.
Like the butter, like the boots, like a monk in monastery happier than anyone outside the walls could ever realize.
Like her asking me to tutor her so that I may learn more about the true language life has to offer by simply opening up to it.