Who influenced you in your life? Who had a lasting impression that you can point to and say, “THAT person made a difference” ? In many, many cases–different and outside of a family member, it was a teacher. Someone who took the time. Someone who showed they cared.
Where I grew up, in Hempstead, Long Island; we had a pretty tight-knit community. If we did not see each other in school, we saw each other on the Little league field, or at church or doing something in the community. It was the type of community where you left to play at 9:00 am and did mot come home until dark. There was so much to do.
My grammar school was, what seemed like, a humongous building with windows that six feet across and twelve feet high. When you rolled them open it felt like you were above the world. It was in Our Lady of Loretto Grammar School that ‘my influencer’ would be introduced to my life. She was a woman who had a heart of gold and her name was Sister Annamarie.
Now why would a woman who taught me in second grade have stayed in my mind all these years? Well if you ever met her, you would know. Her smile was not just a smile….it radiated an incredible warmth. Her laugh came naturally and often. Her touch of a shoulder, or an arm around you made you feel special. Even if she became angry at us, being kids, her threat of “thirty lashes with a wet noodle” would just make us laugh……..and more than that; we would do as she instructed. Because we had to? No, because we wanted to and THAT in itself is a gift.
It was a weekend when the Pope decided (in whatever process they used to determine such things) that nuns no longer needed to wear ‘their habits’, if they chose not to. Sister Anaamarie, being in her twenties at the time, decided that ‘the habit’ needed to go. She was the first of three in our school who never wore it again.
Now unless you were bought up Catholic, and you were used to seeing the nuns wear their habits on their heads, you probably have no idea what that means. Trust me….it was a BIG DEAL at the time. This formal head-wear came in all shapes and sizes and in on one TV show even allowed a nun to fly (The Flying Nun starring Sally Field).
But it was not the habit, nor the not-wearing-of-the-habit that made Sister Annamarie so special, although her not wearing it just solidified to us kids just ‘how cool’ she was. It is important that I point out that nuns always had a ‘persona’ of holiness and respect and almost ‘unapproachable’ stature. They were not people, they were above that, they were…..well…….nuns.
Sister Annamarie seemed determined to break down these auras and show people who nus were just people. People with an incredible capacity to love and to do God’s work with a song in their heart. It was not uncommon to see her playing kickball or softball with us kids. She would stop and talk to people and she made kids feel wonderful…….about themselves; and I was one of those fortunate ones.
She was a strong supporter of education, not just for ‘her kids’ but for herself and she made darn sure that she would attend as much University time as she could. She made learning fun and she also reminded everyone in her very existence that life was ‘for the grabbing’ and if one did not ‘grab it’, it was their own fault.
She embraced change and she has done much work for The Sisters in her Order who needed all sorts of help along the way. Sisters are, after all, just people as she would remind us. People who live life and face problems themselves. People who live life to the fullest as well. People who even do things like, love baseball, as she did for her beloved Minnesota Twins. She showed us that doing God’s work had many sides showing many things…….mostly love.
School ended, life moved on, and I would always be grateful to this wonderful and beautiful lady. Who was THAT person in your life? Please share with us your story.
I have wished for so long that, at some point, I would be given the opportunity to thank her. Recently, on a grammar school FB page, we were discussing favorite teachers, and of course her name came up and I typed how I would love to reach out to her…….just to say thank you.
Well I was supplied the info, I reached out, and I met with her recently and was given my opportunity to tell her how much she meant to me in my life. We had lunch together and spoke for hours. She is still as incredible as she always was and her life was full of amazing stories. I gave her a big hug and a kiss when I left and was given the opportunity I had sought……………..to thank her.
Not many people get that opportunity. And that, was a blessing.
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