Yesterday I experienced a China miracle. It’s difficult to describe because I’m not really sure what happened. It was rush hour, and traffic was bad. I got out of the taxi half a block from the corner to walk the rest of the way to the restaurant where I was going to meet my husband for dinner. Ten feet down the sidewalk, I heard some shouting behind me. A policeman who was standing on the sidewalk in front of me yelled back at the man, and I turned to see what was the matter. It was my taxi driver. He was shouting at me and pointing down the road. I thought maybe he wanted more money, or he was angry with me. I didn’t understand. But the cop understood. He walked over to a man on a bike at the corner, and took something from him. It was my wallet. How…? What…? What just happened? I told the police officer that it was my wallet. He said, “It’s yours?” I said, “Yes.” And he gave it to me.
The whole thing took less than thirty seconds. How did the man on the bike get my wallet? I thought I had put it in my bag after paying the driver my fare. Did the guy on the bike slip it out of my bag while I was putting on my gloves? Did I leave it in the car, and the driver gave it to the bike rider to pass to me? I don’t know. I was so confused by the whole thing. If he had stolen it, why did he just hand it over to the cop? And why did the cop just let him ride away? It really didn’t matter though. I had my wallet, and nothing was missing!
I get so involved in my own stories. What just happened to me? What am I feeling? What lesson do I need to learn. And I am at the center of it all.
Last night at that lovely dinner with my husband, in a European restaurant at the heart of Dalian, I learned that my friend Katya died. This past summer she was diagnosed with cancer, and she had a short battle because it was so advanced.
What happened to Katya? What did she feel? What lessons did she learn? She took the time to tell us in letters. The magazine she worked for, Focus on Dalian, published several letters from her in the latest issue after the community held a fund raiser to help her with medical costs. She shows her spirit in these letters. You may begin to understand why I am writing this post about her if you read those letters. (It’s difficult to mark the specific article in this website, so look for “Letters from Katya”, twelve pages in.)
Katya was an extraordinary person. When I first met her, she had just been hired by the magazine to help with media production. When she was 21, she left her home of Ekaterinaburg, Russia to study new media in Indiana. She worked for a short time in New York City and Moscow before she came to Dalian to study Chinese almost five years ago. The magazine was lucky to find her. I could tell immediately she was a person of great capacity. Over the years of working with the magazine, I got to know her better, and her capacity astonished me. She rapidly became the heart of the magazine, pumping energy throughout the organization and into the community. She was production manager, office manager, designer, photographer, events planner, community organizer, trainer, encourager, peace-maker and good friend to all. She was professional, kind, considerate, intelligent, had great common sense and always served others. Things got done because Katya made sure they got done, no matter the obstacles. And there were plenty. She held everything together through a turbulent change in management, working with inexperienced foreign staff and volunteers. She also recognized the wealth of experience available in the local staff, and respected their expertise. And the way she did it all was so completely selfless. Even when writing those letters to thank the community for their support, she focuses her attention on being a light to others. She writes, “My wish to you: Love each other, forgive each other, take care of each other, and be ready to help when your help is needed and nothing bad will ever happen to you.” She was a woman who could offer such advice, because she was a constant example of this.
Katya told me while she was in the hospital that the only reason she was sad was that she had to leave the editor to work on the magazine by himself. She also said, “I just have to ‘eat’ whatever God puts on my plate and not worry about it too much. I will be over with it sooner than later.” She always kept a positive attitude, even to the end. And she kept working. She continued producing content for the magazine from her hospital room back in Ekaterinburg, managing the website and putting together the e-newsletter via Skype and e-mail. She built this website last year. It was the project from hell, but she eventually was able to pull all the chaotic pieces together and create a clean, well-organized, interesting website that is a useful resource to the expatriate community of Dalian. And she did this during yet another tumultuous upheaval in management.
Part of me regrets that I was part of that upheaval when I chose to leave the editorship. It was a difficult decision, in large part because I would have greatly enjoyed working with Katya. I am trying to steer clear of the thoughts that go something like, “Maybe if I had worked there earlier, or longer, I could have encouraged her to get her symptoms checked out sooner,” or “Maybe I could have made her life a little easier.” These things might be true, but they live in the realm of “shoulda coulda woulda”. Even worse, they bring me straight back to myself. Katya always encouraged me to follow my heart though, even if it meant leaving the magazine we both care about.
I keep thinking about that corner on the road, where my wallet was returned to me when I didn’t even know I had lost it. It was so surreal. It had “angel” written all over it. Katya was an angel for me when she was in this world. I’m betting that she’s an angel to us all now that she’s in the next. I want to be like that.