We are so used to being skeptical about our contemporaries that at times we don’t think for a moment that people living according to the Lord’s commandments may be among us. But, as is usually the case with such people, they don’t make a show of their good works. It is no coincidence that the Gospel proclaims: But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth (Mt. 6:3). Nevertheless, we are keen to know these good Samaritans better in order to become like them as far as possible, albeit we realize that they are the very candles …put under a bushel, or under a bed (Mark 4:21). However, seeing our weakness, God sometimes reveals them to us.
There is an extraordinary doctor in one of Moscow’s specialized hospitals. I used to read about such doctors in books – not only are they good specialists, they are wonderful people too.
Every month on the day before salary day (and I hope she earns a good salary as she works in one of the most famous and sought-after hospitals of the country) this attractive young lady (in her mid-twenties) carefully selects catheters of varied sizes, tablets, embrocation, and orthopedic devices (in short, all that she prescribes to her patients) on various medical websites. Then she with her medical nurses meets the delivery man and gives directions in a low voice: “Vinogradov, ward no. 7—fourteen catheters; Filimonov, ward no. 3—removable ankle joint immobilizers…”, and so on.
Staring at her face intently, I couldn’t see anything remarkable or noticeable in it. She is a pretty, young woman—a factor that makes her inconspicuous among thousands of ladies like her. But she is still very special. And on closer acquaintance you discover that she keeps you at arm’s length. No buddy-buddy manners, as it were. And she only talks business. In my imagination she has a rich husband or father, and I hope that I am right. But her modest clothes, behavior, ability to get to the root of the patients’ troubles on the first go reveal someone who has first-hand knowledge of poverty. As you look at her, you see St. Luke of Crimea, St. Eugene Botkin, or Nicholas Pirogov1… And you have a gut feeling that all will be well, since the Lord has deigned to send such a wonderful doctor for our healing.
She is absolutely happy with her ministry, is always in good spirits, and always finds the necessary words even for terminal patients and their relatives. Incidentally, cures in this department are a common occurrence even with unfavorable prognoses for diseases. Remarkably, as you communicate with this young doctor, you want to thank God over and over again. You cannot help but repeat:
“Glory to Thee, o Lord!”
A young deacon serves in one church near Moscow. As he lives kind of far away (at the border with another region), the deacon has to leave for the early Liturgy at four in the morning. To be more exact, this is what he did until recently, and now he leaves even earlier. And he has a serious reason for that. An elderly woman who is a wheelchair user lives beside this church. She has a great desire to attend church services regularly, to participate in the sacraments of the Church, and to live a liturgical life. So each time, the deacon takes the disabled woman to and from church on his old Moskvitch car. He unfolds and folds her wheelchair, lifts it in and out of the car, pushes it up and down steps himself. This is a good thing but for one fact: This handicapped parishioner’s husband, son and daughter drive their own cars which are much newer than the deacon’s rattletrap, and have a lot of time at their disposal… But still they count on the deacon’s assistance. “Such is the custom”. Thus, this man regularly supplements the “receptacle of his acts of mercy” with the time and energy he devotes to this disabled parishioner. And he never grumbles about that.
The Lord stands at the door of everyone’s heart and knocks. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock (Rev. 3:20). Some people respond to the very first knock of their heart’s door and thus transform both their lives and those of their neighbors forever. One of them is Granny Lyusya [a diminutive form of the name Lyudmila]. At the age of eighty-six she would feed homeless cats and dogs near the heating main every day. She would call up all her friends and acquaintances, trying to find a new home for her four-legged friends, doing this with prayer because it was “safer”. Once potential owners had turned up, Granny Lyusya called her veterinarian and in case of need paid for the animals’ treatment, keeping them in quarantine at home until they recovered. She would say that since she had promised to restore the pets’ health before giving them away, so be it! And no “cats in the bag” [the Russian idiom equivalent to “a pig in a poke”, denoting an unpleasant surprise]! True, there were cats, but in clean boxes…
Granny Lyusya even kept a notebook where she recorded the fate of the first twenty-seven pets: “Musya was taken to Istra; Bobik went to Kolomna; Tuzik was taken to Kaluga; Rex flew to Düsseldorf…” Before that cats and dogs had been vaccinated many times and placed into quarantine, though. When a thank-you note came from Germany, Granny Lyusya asked her granddaughter to read it and answer the letter properly, as befits polite people. A lively correspondence sprang up, which eventually was followed by a wedding and the birth of Granny Lyusya’s great-grandchild… In time staff workers of a local dogs and cats home became interested in the four-legged friends and now they are performing Granny Lyusya’s task of rehoming them… As for this good Samaritan woman, from time to time she is seen walking with her stick, counting her prayer beads and whispering something. She answers all questions wisely: A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast (Prov. 12:10)...
The Almighty always helps people in their good works. According to Hieromonk Vasily (Roslyakov), one of the new martyrs of Optina Monastery: “The wonders of God’s mercy are plentiful, but we must bring Him all that we have.”