An Evening of Learning With Nuns

This past weekend, my wife, Melinda and I embarked on a journey to Richmond, VA to attend, what I jokingly refer to as my “Save the World” Conference. When we normally go to Richmond, we visit her aunt and this time was no different. You see, her aunt isn’t like all the other aunts. She doesn’t live in a house, own a car or have any possessions. Sister Angela is a nun who has declared her loyalty to God at “The Little Sisters of the Poor.”

As we arrived late on Friday afternoon, the receptionist informed Sister Angela of our arrival. Sister Angela greeted us with her usual smile and cheerful hello while being assisted with a walker. In her 70s and having been a nun for over 50 years, she doesn’t quite get around like she used too. We had dinner and I made reference to how misguided society is. She shook her head in her usual non-confrontational manner and smiled, not truly affirming yes or no.

After dinner, Melinda and her went to finish some arts and crafts. Sister Angela’s contribution is doing arts and crafts with the residents. This provides meaningful activities for the residents and produces gifts and merchandise for the gift shop.

Arts and crafts are not my cup of tea so I headed out to do my new Thanksgiving tradition of sorting canned goods. As I made my way through the hallway, two sisters were helping three residents. Two of the residents were in wheelchairs and the other wasn’t far. Watching those sisters in action was like poetry in motion as they worked in harmony to provide the care needed. I did not think about injecting myself, as I would have only slowed them down. So, I proceeded to my mundane chore.

Walking into the room, the reality of the task was overwhelming as donated cans were everywhere. My previous comment on society was eased slightly as I saw the giving. So, I started my task. Working in solitude, I slowly devised my organizational scheme. I shouldn’t admit this but stacking cans can be quite addictive.

While in my state of unconsciousness, I would occasionally be interrupted by Melinda or Sister Angela checking on me. I threw the obligatory salute and proceeded with the task at hand. This time, Sister Collette entered the room who I’d never met. She was checking on her pet project and informed me there would be volunteers coming the next day. I was even more determined to finish the task at hand. When Melinda came to help, the dent in my project was hardly obvious. Once we figured how Melinda would fit into my newly created scheme I’d spent hours perfecting, we were off again.

Shortly after midnight, we realized that if we were going to the “Save the World” Conference that we needed some sleep. As we were leaving, we looked back in amazement that we were only half way finished. I guess that was the pessimistic way of looking at it but at least the volunteers would come in handy. We would wake up, had breakfast with Sister Angela and we’d be on our way.

The “Save the World” Conference seemed rather trivial in comparison. After being around these ladies, you understand what helping others truly mean. This is not the occasional occurrence or a 9-5 job, helping others is their life. They are organized, pleasant and disciplined. We hear so much from others telling us what we should do to help the poor while these ladies are showing us how it is truly done. It is difficult for politician, environmentalists and even fellow human beings to stand next to them for the goodness they represent. They have made so many sacrifices in the name of God that we could not truly understand what that means. Hopefully, next time you see a Sister in her attire that you extend your gratitude. So many times, I have seen them mocked. As I did not say anything then, I know better now. But extend a Thank You to a Sister for what she does. Most likely you’ll receive a warm smile and greeting in return for your gratitude.

In the next couple of weeks, the War on Christmas begins and it would be nice to see a Christmas to where God isn’t attacked. But in this environment, anything that promotes individualism is demonized. But as usual, the onslaught will continue in the media and in public. Even if you do not practice religion, at least show them the respect they have worked so hard to deserve by allowing their Savior to be blessed in public.

The volunteers did not show up, the Congressional Super Committee, as predicted, did not fix our financial problems and the poor are multiplying in America but you know that the nuns at the “Little Sisters of the Poor” are chugging along as they have done for so many years. Lyndon B. Johnson declared Government’s “War on Poverty” and Sister Angela took action to help the poor at nearly the same time and I have to say…Sister Angela’s is doing her part to truly help the poor.

As a family member (even if I’m a transplant), I wanted to take this opportunity to share this moment with you and say thanks to all who sacrifice and the volunteer at the Little Sisters of the Poor. If you get the opportunity…help a church.

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