In my life at college I run around all day long doing things I feel are important. But this week I was struck by the realization that in all my busyness I may be missing out on the most valuable work of all. I learned this lesson from a girl named Tanya.

My day began with a ride to the end of the tram line. As I walked up to the dilapidated “dorm” where Tanya lives, children and stray dogs ran through a dusty yard. Upon entering the building my eyes roamed over dressers, cabinets, and various odds and ends stuffed throughout the hallways. I climbed a steep stairway to reach the second floor where my hosts awaited me.

The last stop on the tram where my day with Tanya began.

A light knock and the door was opened wide by Mila. Her face held a welcoming smile and she excitedly motioned my translator and me in. Mila lives with her wheelchair bound daughter, Tanya, who has cerebral palsy. Tanya’s cousin also lives with them, and the three share a home in the “dorm.”

The dorm is an old building that once housed local factory workers. The people there share a community bathroom and kitchen with the rest of their floor. Tanya’s home consists of two small rooms, one of which all three women sleep in every night. The room I walked into was crammed with chairs, couches, cabinets, a table, and a small refrigerator.

We began our day with a walk around the “neighborhood.” Now, before you envision long winding sidewalks, grassy lawns, and cul-de-sacs let me explain the location.

The dorm where Tanya and her mother live.

We walked by crumbling buildings that used to be some of the finest factories in the region. We trudged down cracked sidewalks and roads that were once pathways for droves of laborers. We stopped to sit by a formerly beautiful fountain, now a cement trash pit.

But Tanya didn’t seem fazed by her neighborhood’s appearance. She didn’t seem put-out by the fact that her wheelchair could barely be pushed along the rutted path. Instead she smiled and laughed as she shared this piece of her life with me.

After our journey we went back to the dorm for lunch. Mila came down and gathered three strong men from the dorm to carry Tanya up the steep stairway. As the men lifted Tanya up the stairs I realized how important community is to Tanya and her mother. Without community, Tanya wouldn’t be able to leave her home.

Mila shared over dinner this need for strong community. Some of the people in the dorm are helpful and understanding of Tanya’s disability. Men are willing to carry Tanya up the stairs as I had witnessed.

But some are not. One woman even forbade her son from helping Tanya. My mind reeled. How could someone be so inconsiderate? But Tanya and Mila didn’t seem to harbor any hard feelings toward them. They persist in living out God’s command to love your neighbor as yourself.

One of the abandoned factories in the “neighborhood.”

In fact, Tanya told us about a girl in the dorm who comes over and makes fun of Tanya because of her disability. When people ask Tanya why she allows the girl to come over, Tanya replies, “We’re all sinful. Christ forgave me, I’ll forgive her.”

At one point during dinner Tanya asked me a question that I found rather strange. “Who are your favorite people? Pretty people or ugly people?” I was taken off guard and said something about how I didn’t have a preference.

“Good,” said Tanya, “my mom and I like all people too.” Mila agreed and added, “Outward appearance doesn’t matter. They were all created in the image of God.” Here I was sitting in a tiny, little dorm eating a humble meal with people who were speaking and living the truth of Christ.

I learned a lot from Tanya that day. She spends her life dependent upon the help others give her. She could be resentful and angry about the life she has been given. But instead she focuses on the most valuable thing on this earth. People.

Tanya working on some crafts we brought for her.

That’s why the dilapidated buildings and crumbling sidewalks bothered me but didn’t bother Tanya. Tanya was focused on spending time with me. She couldn’t care less if her neighborhood meets Better Homes and Gardens’ standards.

By the time I left the next morning, I no longer felt any sadness about Tanya’s living conditions. Tanya is rich in the kingdom of God. She understands the value of people, something I too often forget.

Instead of running around all day doing meaningless things, she is focused on building the community of God. It doesn’t matter that Tanya spends most of her days at home in the dorm. She is busy building God’s kingdom and seeing the value in His children all around her.

And what could be more meaningful then that?

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About the Author: Krystallin was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is currently a senior at Moody Bible Institute majoring in Communication Studies. After graduation, she hopes to spend her life pursuing justice for the oppressed. She loves adventure and chases tornadoes on her time off.

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Comments

  1. Renia said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 6:15 am  

    How wonderful that she is living at home instead of being abandoned to an institution. A beautiful story!

  2. Kris Schneider said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 8:46 am  

    I’m going to remember her today as I go about the busyness of my day today. I’m going to remember the value of the people in my life today. Thank you for the reminder and the beautiful story Krystallin!

  3. Rachel Swift said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 9:47 am  

    I needed to be reminded of this…. Thanks, K-lyn! Reading all of the WND articles is such a blessing :)

  4. Kevin said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 12:15 pm  

    What a wonderful life lesson. Thank you for sharing and reminding me where God would have me focus my attention. We forget how much He loves His children and wants us to love them just as much. It’s also amazing how we plan to bless and teach others as we prepare for mission trips and in the end we receive the best of life’s lessons. God is truly remarkable.

  5. kimberly quinn said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 8:05 pm  

    If you want to learn more contact http://www.jafministries.com This organization serves to minister to the disabled and their families throughout the world.
    Sadly stories like Tanya’s are not uncommon in the world.

    EDIT by admin: Thanks, Kimberly! I believe the link is http://www.joniandfriends.org/ :)

  6. kathleen said... 

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    July 22nd, 2010 at 10:48 pm  

    Beautiful story and such great insight. So often we see things in a whole new perspective when those who are considered “the least” show the rest of us that we need to learn how to live!

  7. Jim.M said... 

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    July 23rd, 2010 at 12:28 am  

    “Rich in the Kingdom of God”,

    I love it…. Most of us know a “Tanya”, isn’t it a pleasure to be in their presence.

    Henri Nouwen writes (In the Name of Jesus) about letting go of his “relevant self”…being forced to reclaim the unadorned self where we are completely vulnerable, open to receive and give love regardless of our past accomplishments. Being in the presence of a person like Tanya quickly helps center us in that place.

    Thank you for sharing this reminder about this “richness toward God”.

    Very nice story.

    j.

  8. Virginia Baldwin said... 

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    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:36 pm  

    Thanks for telling us about this beautiful girl. Also thanks be to God for seeing Tanya as He sees her.
    God bless you and those you come in contact with each day.
    Love,
    Virginia

  9. Jan Young said... 

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    January 8th, 2011 at 8:09 pm  

    I actually did a home visit with Tanya the first year I was in Ukraine. She is a very sweet girl and you did a wonderful job of explaining your experience. Thank You for such a sweet note about her.

  10. Krystallin said... 

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    January 9th, 2011 at 1:35 am  

    Jan that is so neat that you did a home visit with her too! I love her dearly. I miss everyone there and hope one day to return and see their smiling faces again. :) It was a pleasure and a blessing to write this piece.

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