Secretly Incredible, Part 2
Last week I wrote about meeting Andrey Selivanov, leader of the Vladimir dacha and a man I consider a secretly incredible hero who dedicates his life to others while asking nothing in return. In this post I'll take you north to Kostroma, where I met a similar hero named Mikhail Makhov, leader of the Kostroma dacha.
Not too long ago I read an article in the news that I found a bit disturbing. The article told the story of a 60-year-old sports writer who decided to take his own life. While heartbreaking stories like this one are all too common today, this man's story caught my eye because, according to the article, he spent a year creating a website and using it to document the reasons behind his decision. This man claimed that he was not depressed or angry, and actually had a happy and fulfilling life. He wrote that he made the decision simply because he had reached the age of 60 and no longer believed he had anything left to contribute to the world at such an old age. This man believed it better to end his own life than realize how much left he still had to give to the world as he grew older.
On the day I visited the Kostroma dacha, I was still trying to recover from food poisoning that had hit me two days before. That was okay though, because as we prepared to leave for the dacha that morning Mikhail insisted, with an empathetic smile across his face, “We will go to the dacha and relax and eat healthy food, and you will feel much better.” He was a kindly man just about to turn 70, yet seemed to have the energy of someone half his age. Despite the protests of my roiling stomach, it was difficult not to believe his encouraging words.
We drove out of Kostroma with seven orphan grads and, after Mikhail led me on a tour of the dacha still under construction, the kids all went straight to work. Like at the Vladimir dacha, the Kostroma participants were working to finish harvesting their fields of potatoes stretching behind the dacha. Mikhail made the trip to the dacha in a dress shirt and slacks and a nice pair of dress shoes. Yet he rolled up he sleeved, grabbed a shovel and began digging up the field like he thought there was treasure buried in somewhere in there.
Feeling a bit more energetic out in the fresh country air, I let a couple of the grads give me a crash course on sifting through the dirt where Mikhail had dug and making sure I found all the potatoes hidden in it. At one point, Mikhail stopped digging long enough to suggest I take a break so as to not make myself sick again. Feeling a bit feverish, I took his advice without hesitation. I sat alongside the field for a bit and marveled at the man three times my age—who looked more appropriately dressed for a wedding or business meeting—advising I take a breather and then going straight back to work, tearing though the dirt like a machine and leaving the grads far behind him.
It wasn't just Mikhail's work ethic that impressed me. He also leads Orphan Tree's leadership program, which I have written about in an earlier post, and the trip to the dacha made it easy to see why. The moment we stepped out of the van at the dacha, every grad set about the tasks that needed done under Mikhail's direction. He seemed everywhere at once, always willing to lead by serving, and that willingness showed in the enthusiasm with which each of the grads went about their work as well. Like Andrey, Mikhail also owns a house nearby the dacha and dedicates so much of his time and energy to the orphans who he inspires, both at the dacha and in the leadership program. Every one of them regarded Mikhail with love and respect not seen nearly enough anymore, like seven adoring grandchildren.
As I read the article about the writer who ended his life at 60 because he thought there was nothing left to give to the world, my mind immediately went to Mikhail, who at 70 years old is still teaching and inspiring orphans with his serving attitude and natural leadership. Mikhail is a secretly incredible man who God uses every day to help better the lives of orphans without any regard of age. He's rolling up his sleeves and digging through dirt in his nice clothes ahead of everyone else. I can only pray that I have half of the passion and energy of Mikhail when I reach his age. He is truly a hero with no need for a cape; he prefers dress slacks instead.