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Monday, September 20, 2010

Wisdom Sister Margaret taught me

“Doris, keep your composure!” Sister Margaret said to me.  She was my fourth grade teacher.  I was quite upset and argumentative that day, defending my idea of what the art group should have worked on to present at a local art festival.  I was outraged when the group rejected my idea.
I was a top student, earning high grades.  My family wouldn’t stop bragging about “how smart” and “what a good girl” I was.  But my pride stumbled that day. 
“The world doesn’t revolve around you,” Sister Margaret told me.

I sulked.  Sister Margaret’s words shook me.  I felt embarrassed.  I realized that my pride had grown into arrogance and poor self-control.  Sister Margaret gave me a stern scolding, and now, more than three decades later, her firm words still echo in my mind, reminding me to keep my composure.

Sister Margaret was trying to, and succeeded in, teaching me about reasonableness, patience, and self-confidence.  And I am thankful for it.  I’ve thought of her during a handful of events and incidents where I realized that keeping self-control and prudence had led to positive outcomes. 

One event that I recall involved a resident’s family member.  As I was ready to head to a care plan meeting, Mr L, whose father had recently been placed in the nursing home, showed up in my office, anxiously asking to talk with me.  

“Mr L, I only have a couple of minutes,” I told him.  “But I can meet with you after my meeting,” I offered.  

“No, it has to be right now” he demanded.  “Just come with me. I need to show you something,” he said. 

I followed him down the hall.  I could hear his heavy breathing.  I could see that his face was flush.  I sensed what he wanted to show me would be an unpleasant sight.  

We walked into his father’s room. Mr L opened the door to the bathroom.  He then asked me to step in.  He stood over the toilet, pointing toward the bowel, with a stern expression and arched eyebrow.  The toilet that was dirty. It clearly had been used and not flushed.  

“Do you see this #%!@? Mr L yelled at me while pointing to the toilet with his outstretched index finger.  He then brought his finger close to my face.  His glaring eyes reflected his rage.  It was almost as if burning embers had replaced his eyes.  

“I am tired of this @!#%” Mr L exclaimed. Then he started making all kinds of threats.  
Amazingly, I was not scared of him, but rather annoyed. I felt humiliated. I wondered why we put up with his uncouth behavior which was not new, coming from him.  But I remembered these incidents were to be handled professionally.
I looked at him.  I didn’t say a word.  I flushed the toilet.  Then I looked him in the eyes, 
shaking my head, and showing my understanding of his frustration.  His outrage was not diminished.  

“Don’t you see that you have to hold the handle down or it won’t flush?  he screamed. 
Mr L seemed to enjoy proving that there was something wrong with the toilet that would justify his hatefulness.  

“I will address this, Mr L,” I said, in a calm tone, even though I felt a growing turbulence inside me.  Mr L gave me a doubtful look.  I did my best to disregard it. 

We both left the room and headed off in different directions.  I reported the problem with the toilet to maintenance.  While walking the hall, I was immersed in my thoughts, reminding myself to keep my composure.  I remembered Sister Margaret. And I was grateful again because she taught me wisdom. 

After addressing the incident with some of my co-workers, the issue was resolved within a few hours. The toilet was actually replaced with a new one that worked properly.  

Surprisingly, Mr L came back to my office, with a grin on his face. 
“Thank you for taking care of the problem,” he whispered, and left.  
Mr L was well-known for being a difficult and demanding man who often laced his 
lashings with profanity.  Listening to his “thank you” was definitely a reward—even if it was just for that day. 
Yet my true reward was remembering the lesson Sister Margaret had the patience to teach me. A lifetime lesson that the world doesn’t revolve around me, but those that I am here to help.  Every day. 


Mariette VandenMunckhof-Vedder said...

Dearest Doris,

What a blessing for having had such a wise teacher early in life! Certain people, teachers or family members that we come across on our path to adulthood, really build our character in a rock-solid way.
Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story and we only pray that these role models will never become extinct. Especially not in these days where role models seem to have vanished!

Lots of love from Georgia,


Just Be Real said...

Truly an inspiring post to read Doris. What a blessing indeed to have a mentor. Blessings.

myletterstoemily said...

it truly is difficult maintaining our composure
with difficult people.

this was a fine example, and well written,
of how to do it.

thank you.

MTJ said...

Hi Doris,

It's good you had a mentor like Sister Margaret; helping to prepare you for the instances when your patience would be challenged.

I am learning that God gives us opportunities to learn patience because it's such a necessary component in our life. The example Jesus provided was that even when others railed against Him, He never attempted to defend Himself; Jesus understood His greater purpose.

Blessings and peace Doris.


Amrita said...

Dear Doris, thank you for sharing these incidents.

I have trouble keeping my composure at times but I am learning slowly and steadily. Actually I am doing much better at trying to keep calm in the midst of turbulence.

Diane said...

Patience is a hard one to keep! Glad you have that beautiful lady to remember! :O)

Claus said...

I couldn't help but remember my years in school. I too studied in a nun/Catholic school, and had years of advice and suggestions that have been with me all along.
it's not always easy not to lose control. As with everything else in life, practice is needed. Thank you for sharing your experience; a real-life lesson indeed.
lindo día!!

Anonymous said...

Patience is a virtue! What a tough situation.

Ann Best said...

Thanks for congratulating me on my 200 followers. But it's just a number. The important thing to me is those followers, like you, that I have come to know and appreciate. This post gave me the lift I need today. Dealing with people is one of the most, if not THE most difficult thing in life. I need to remember your Sister Margaret when I'm dealing with difficult situations like one I faced last night with a family member. Thanks for commenting on my blog, which propelled me to come to yours!!! Have a wonderful day.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

Keeping your composure when being yelled at is quite a challenge.

Feeling control slipping through your fingers sometimes prompts tantrums in institutionalized adults. They feel trivialized, condemned to living out an existence of second childhood.

You are quite lucky to have had such a wise mentor. And you were a wise child to be able to learn and not burn.

Thanks for the very kind words you left on my post on the League of Five. Roland

Writer said...

Hi Doris,
Thank you for stopping by my blog today and leaving a message.
Your latest post is wonderful! This is a great reminder for me since patience escapes me sometimes.
Although I went to an all-girls school in elementary school, I don't recall having a favorite teacher/nun. :( They were nice but that was it. I did enjoy my classes though. Patience is a virtue sounds like a cliché but it's so true.
Thanks for the reminder!

Padraic Murray said...

I will try and think of Sr. Margaret and yourself Doris the next time I am tempted to explode! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. P

Unknown said...

I need to remember that sometimes. I don't always follow your teacher's wise advice but I should. I could save myself a lot of problems if I did. Thank you so much for this lovely post.


Michele said...

wanted to thank you for your lovely comment on my post about adversity. that really brightened my day!

Terri Tiffany said...

Oh wow! You sure know how to write a touching story:)) Again an great aha moment at the end!

Arlee Bird said...

In a situation like you were in it's good for someone to be able to stay cool, otherwise it could become a volatile situation that could easily get out of hand. My father had a very short fuse at home and with us kids, which is probably why I tend to be pretty calm and like to be a mediator and peacekeeper.

Tossing It Out

डा0 हेमंत कुमार ♠ Dr Hemant Kumar said...

Respected Doris mam,
It's realy very encoraging story(incident)for evry people about having patience,having cool mind and solving problems.And most beautiful thing is your way of presentation--i mean conveying your messages to readers...nice article.
With best wishes.

Darcie said...

Thank you so much for your sweet comment and follow! Joining as a follower and looking forward to getting to know you through your blog. :-)

Sister Sheena said...

Wow... it's really true...
thanks for the comment...
have a blessed day
and God bless...

Love and Prayer
Sr. Sheena

Patrinas Pencil said...

You did well -
reminds me of my work in Assisted Living....yep, it sure does :)I learned a lot about people in that position - how not to speak to them -how not to treat them. It took patience and tenacity - but the element of 'caring' about the residents - made is so much easier for me. Over time - with consistency, the relationship usually became less abusive.

Sister Margaret was a wise woman - and she chose to gift you with her wisdom. Timeless!

Patrina <")>><

Nezzy (Cow Patty Surprise) said...

Girl, ya handled that one with patience and dignity!!! Here's a big old kudos for you! :o)

God bless you sweetie and have a terrific weekend!!!

Kim@stuffcould.... said...

Thanks for telling us about the patience lesson. Wonderful for Sister Margaret also

Unknown said...

A lesson well learnt is not forgotten:) How wonderful to be able to handle a tricky situation such as this.

Karin said...

Lifetime lessons by people who care enough to confront us are so valuable. I'm grateful too for those who have influenced my life and helped to shape my character. It's wise of you to have taken her advice to heart and learn from St. Margaret. And in turn you brought a cool head to what was an explosive situation. I'm glad he returned to say 'thank you'. You're now building a bridge of trust and he will feel safe to come to you with other concerns. Bullies are such frightened, frustrated people who just can't use their words!

Welcome to my blog!! Nice to read yours!

NENSA MOON said...

Very nice post, Doris!
I learnt much from it...
Yeah... patience is indeed a very powerful weapon to stifle anger in us.

Happy weekend to you, my dear friend!
xoxo, nensa


Je ne partage pas ta foi à laquelle tu te réfères pour surmonter les moments difficiles mais je la comprends. Quant à la patience, elle s'acquiert beaucoup plus aisément à partir du moment l'on comprend que nous ne sommes pas le centre du monde. C'est une évidence qui pèse lourd sur les épaules de ceux qui n'ont de valeur que celle de l'argent et de la domination. Elle leur permet de devenir ce centre du monde artificiellement mais au prix de lourdes pertes. Tôt ou tard, elle comprennent leur erreur.


Libby said...

a wonderful lesson! thanks for sharing!

Warren Baldwin said...

Great teachers are an irreplaceable blessing to our lives. Good post. And thanks for the follow.

Closer to Lucy said...

I wonder if Sister Margaret knows the impact she made in your life?

It never stops amazing me the power of influence adults have on children.....often our intent is to fix a situation, we don't always think about the life long lesson we may be teaching...good and bad...

Thanks for sharing the good.

following you now.

Anonymous said...

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Unknown said...

What you have to say is always worth reading--and I think you may be making me into a better person. Thank you.

Karen Lange said...

That is a wonderful lesson! So glad you shared it. What a blessing to have a perceptive adult care enough to make a difference in your life.