I have been out in the world again. All the stories I’ve seen and heard and lived have been patiently but eagerly contained, just waiting to be told.
In Poland and Lithuania, where we were traveling, World War II still casts a long shadow over the land. That is a long, hard, sad story.
But little stories are everywhere, and more often than not, you will find stories within stories. In fact, they will find you.
In Vilnius, even the walls contained stories. We started to notice things, like faded Hebrew lettering on an old wall…
…Or a Star of David scratched in stone seventy years ago.
We learned that our apartment was in the Vilnius Ghetto, where more than 42,000 Vilnius Jews were imprisoned before they were murdered.
Near our place was a statue in memory of Dr. Tsemakh Shabad, a Jewish doctor in Vilnius. A lovely young Lithuanian named Yrita gave us the inside story.
The good doctor was loved by all, especially the children, and not only because he believed most childhood illnesses could be cured with a warm glass of milk and a bit of chocolate.
When a mother brought her little girl to him, that was what he prescribed. They had no money for chocolate, so for a week he had the little girl come by every morning to take her medicine– a glass of warm milk and some chocolate. Sure enough, she soon felt better.
When the little girl’s kitten fell ill, she knew just what to do.
She took her kitten to the doctor and asked him to cure it.
The doctor told her that in this case, they would forego the chocolate, and stick with the warm milk. I’m glad to tell you the kitten recovered as well.
Though Dr. Shabad died in 1935, the children of Vilnius still visit him. When they do, they rub the kitten’s nose and make a wish, certain it will come true.
Yrita told us that for little wishes, you rub the kitten’s nose. For very big wishes, you might need to rub the doctor’s nose.
Sometimes wishes don’t come true, not even the little ones, and not all stories have a happy ending.
Sometimes the best we can do is to search for a little light in the darkness. Sometimes you will find it in the most unexpected places.
Tiny miracles can be found everywhere– even in a bit of chocolate, especially when served with a cup of kindness.
All words and images c2014 Naomi Baltuck.