She was a powerful woman, that poorly paid caretaker of children in a small village in Bulgaria. She didn’t know it, but she was. Day in and day out she turned up for work in the poorly-heated, ramshackle building built by the communist government to house orphans. So many children, so many needs.
A 3-year-old boy came to stay at the orphanage, and he was very frail. He had brittle bones and suffered fractures constantly. He had to stay in bed when he would fracture, sometimes for weeks and weeks.
This woman would tie the tiny boy to her back with a shawl and carry him on her sturdy back while she made the rounds. He looked so alone just lying there, and he was so happy when she’d let him hitch a ride with her.
Her name was Maria, and I said she was powerful, because she was. She changed a human life. Over time, nine years in all, that kindness she showed enabled the little boy to trust, to feel affection, and to feel that he was a worthy of love. She didn’t realize that she was giving that child something utterly essential – an emotional foundation for the rest of his life.
That young boy is now a man who works in a hospital here in America, putting medication in IV bags and preparing chemo treatments for patients who are counting on him to do the job right. He is meticulous in his work, conscious of the responsibility he has. He has finished all the certifications he can for his job and is preparing to move on with his training in pharmacy. Despite physical challenges and setbacks, he enjoys helping others and has set goals for himself that with God’s help, he will meet. That’s just who Jonathan is.
Most importantly, he is deeply loved as our son. He is able to give and receive love as a direct result of the compassionate woman in the photograph who loved him before we ever got to meet him at age 12. We are indebted to this very influential woman named Maria whose loving arms changed our son’s life.
It must have seemed like a small thing to show extra love to the little boy, all in a day’s work. But it really wasn’t a small thing at all in the end. Nothing ever is when done in love.
(Tom snapped this photo of Maria and Jon together at the orphanage.)