Monday, September 9, 2013
Her Name is Margarita
Just a scrawny, fluffy, rolly-polly street puppy. Sweet, innocent, and with no pedigree. But so much potential. The very factors that move a Noelle. I fell immediately in love. Snezhok, Russian for Snowflake. But to call him white would be a stretch. He was half white, half grey from the ashen dirt of Kharkov streets. And when I saw him and his four multi-colored siblings rolling around across the street, I wasn't tired and lost anymore. I was just a little girl again, with a whole big world somewhere outside the rotten streets of a third world country. And I stopped work on the construction to go outside and scoop them up and laugh as they wriggled playfully right out of my arms.
All except Snezhok.
He nuzzled up to me and rolled over so I could stroke his milk-filled warm little belly, and then he curled up and pushed his nose under my arm, happy and calm. I brushed his dirty fur, and fingered his precious little pink paws, and I was in heaven.
Well, these street puppies are closely watched over by two little girls next store, Margarita and Nastya. They came running out to see what I was doing with their puppies. Children and I are... an interesting story. Sometimes we jive, more than often we do not. But the little girls crossed their arms and stared at me, and I smiled back at them warily, and the five puppies ran circles around us, urging us to be friends. None of our neighbors let their little girls come to our church to learn about the Bible. They've never heard the story of the ark, about David and Goliath, about Jesus walking on the water. Thank God for puppies.
It was just a little thing. We shared the puppies and soon the girls were waving and running to see me when I came by. It felt so odd, but it made me smile. Who says God can't use anyone he wants to?
Just when this door was opening, Margarita's mom came to talk to us. She worked all day, and her littlest daughter had been bit by a cat while playing out on the street. Now her girl, six years old, was badly infected and lying in the hospital. Had we seen the cat?
Talking to Lilia, she confided that she was worried about Margarita. She left the house bright and early to go to work, and from work to be at the hospital with her baby girl. In my country, they don't provide food to anyone in the hospital, even a child. So it was imperative that Lilia go and feed her sick child, bathe her, and change her bedding each day. While she was gone, Margarita was left to fend for herself. She had forgotten how to use the stove, Lilia told us, and spent the day before unable to cook food. (No box dinners in Kharkov. No plethora of instant cereal at Walmart.) But what could she do? Her husband had just passed away during the cold winter months, and being a member of the Jehovah's Witness cult, none of the neighbors would come near her or Margarita to help.
I thought of Joyce, back in Oklahoma City. I thought of all the people in the world who need help, who need someone to care. Someone to hand a blanket to them on a street corner, or bring them food when their mom is gone for seventeen hours a day.
It was pizza night, and Mom and Nina and I made real, scratch, American pizza and brought some over to Margarita. Who knows if she would have opened the door? But she knew me. The girl who was crazy about the puppies. And she couldn't believe the pizza. Neither could her mom, when she got home that night.
Before I flew out, Margarita came over to say goodbye. I gave her one of my stuffed teddy bears, and she promised she wouldn't forget me. How many Americans would she meet in her life? Probably none. I knew she would never forget me.
And on the long, quiet, lonely plan ride back to Oklahoma City... I knew I wouldn't forget them either. Margarita and Snezhok would be in my heart and my prayers.