Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Strings Too Short to Use

At today's birthday lunch with the Sisters from my office, the talk turned to stories of nun frugality and of savers extraordinaire. One story was of a Sister who saved and reused everything, beyond reason. In her office she had various boxes marked with the contents. One box read: "Strings Too Short to Use," and contained just that. I suppose if you tied a few together?

Wouldn't that be a great title for a short story or poem? (writer friends, note: it's mine!)

Another Sister was wondering if maybe this woman had also been on mission as a teacher in Staples. When she lived in the house where Sisters who taught there lived, they'd cleaned out the attic and were surprised by what they found. Everything, she said, had a note attached instructing the future Sisters on how to use the contents. In one box there might be old curtains, with a note: "These are for the kitchen windows when the current ones wear out," or a box of clips: "These clips are helpful for hanging herbs, but might also be used as clothes pins or to close bags." "This rod matches the living room window but will not fit on the current brackets." "This broom is best for use on the back walk when the current one wears out."

My favorite story from today, however, was about a teacher, and how a child saved the day. It was relayed by someone who heard it from Sister Suzanne Helmin yesterday. Sister Suzanne is 98 years old and sharp as a tack. She remembered teaching a kindergarten class and one day they were so unruly she had to step outside of the room and take a break. She went for a sip of water to calm herself, then returned. Looking through the window she saw all the children sitting silently at their desks waiting for her. She was still angry when she walked in the room. Before she said anything, however, one of the boys in the front row stood up and launched into "Hello, Dolly." He sang the whole number, start to finish, with a little dance to accompany it, while the other kids watched in stunned silence.  Sister Suzanne said it was just what she needed. She couldn't help but smile at that, and the class could continue.

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