A Sister Sandwich :-)

Sis Susanne, Erika and Sis Margaritis

                     (Sister Susanne, Erika and Sister Margaritis)

Yesterday I needed to reserve a room in the Harold Washington Library.  You can only do that in person, so I went.  Happily, because its architecture, spaciousness and tranquility makes HWL one of my favorite places in Chicago.  Anyway, as I was leaving I was behind these two beaming sisters — sisters by religion and birth.

I laughed out loud because, while everyone else had to stop in front of a security guard and show the contents of our bag before leaving, they got to walk on by.  It was a small and well-deserved social courtesy that caught my attention.

As I walked behind them, adapting to their non-hurried pace, I found myself staring at their clergy dress and habits.  Seven years of parochial school — and obligatory uniforms — came back to mind.  And left just as quickly.  Instead, I became strongly curious about these women and their vocational choice.

I wanted to be soul-refreshed.  I wanted to be near them, and talk with them, because their presence felt so good to me.  They were pristine and radiant and free of the jaded cynicism I encounter way too much.  They were relief.  They embodied my idealism.  They were bright, even from behind.

I noticed Sister Susanne had a Map of Chicago in her hand.  Great, now I had a pick-up line :-)  So when we reached the bottom of the last escalator, I said with a smile, “Excuse me, ladies… May I ask where you’re visiting from?”

And that was that.  Our hour-long conversation got so lively and animated, we were actually asked to go have a seat on an out-of-the-way bench.  Oh, right.  We were in a library.  Shhhhhh.

Question:  How many times a day do you hear a sentence start with, “In these tough economic times…”

I have very low tolerance for doom-and-gloom pessimism.  And since I tune stuff like that out, you can imagine just how much media-mess I choose to ignore.  But it’s only so I can have room for uplifting information like this:

In Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Sister Susanne runs a free medical clinic.  She manages/supervises a volunteer staff of 30+ medical doctors, 20+ registered nurses, and 15+ medical secretaries.  This clinic is part of a very special place called St. Anthony’s Center (which is an ecumenical endeavor).  It’s housed in a 3-story building that used to be a storage facility.  Wanna guess what’s on the other 2 floors?  A free meal program, and a free clothing center.  No one pays to get anything (totally free).  And no one is paid to do anything (totally volunteered).

And if all that’s not enough Active and Dispensed Love, they even have time set aside every week for senior volunteers to come and thinly slice fruits and veggies to dehydrate and send to third-world countries!

All this goodness has been going on for over 20 years.  And it was conceived by a humble, but persistent nun who encountered a lot of resistance in the beginning.  (WHY are the most benevolent people and ideas met with such resistance?!  Infuriating!)  But she was stronger than the nay-sayers.  Every week thousands of people are affected by the outrageous spirit of giving that is smartly organized and nurtured.

That’s the kind of humanity I choose to believe and participate in.  That’s the kind of legacy I want to create with my life.

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9 Responses to “A Sister Sandwich :-)”

  1. Sister Susanne Kullowitch Says:

    Erika, the way captured all we said is outstanding. One of the Sisters asked me if you were taking down notes. I replied that we just enjoyed conversation and you were able to remember all.

    God bless you always. May our paths cross again.

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Sister Susanne, meeting you and Sister Margaritis was an unforgettable encounter for me. The two of you took my breath away… beaming so brightly… embodying our Creator’s lavish love. May our paths cross again, indeed. Sending you, and St. Anthony’s Center much affection. XOXO

  2. Sister Susanne Kullowitch Says:

    Thank you. I hope that you received the message I had just written.

  3. Sister Susanne Kullowitch Says:

    Dear Erika, thank you again for your kind words. Mon. night we again had 16 clients and a staff of 10 volunteers who gave their best to the clients. Even though we were finished only at 10:20pm the volunteer staff gave their best to the clients after putting in a full day’s work elsewhere.

    Today the doctor and another staff member had no time to eat lunch and worked until almost 2:30pm. This is after working all morning at a doctor’s office.

  4. Goddess Leonie Says:

    This is just so very beautiful :) Thank you for your wonderful sharing…

  5. Rick Garcia Says:

    What a great story! Sister Susanne was my first grade teacher – I won’t reveal how long ago! She taught me to read, she taught me to write and best of all she taught me how to think.

    After many decades I saw Sister this past fall at the celebration of her Jubilee. I was so honored and so grateful that I could celebrate this event with her.

    She is an absolute treasure.

    • Erika Harris Says:

      Rick, how fortunate for you… to be able to sit in Sr. Susanne’s class, and have your precious 1st-grade mind shaped and influenced by such an Angel.

      Thanks for connecting here, and letting me know what a wonderful thing we share in common.

  6. Paul Bucklaw Says:

    Excellent. Tonight I was looking at some old emails thinking about these two lovely sisters, who truly exemplify Christ. I met Sister Margairitis on a street corner. I am a “Hello,” sayer. On this particular day I didn’t feel like saying anything. But I did. And she did as well. We both were going to St. Peter’s in the Loop. She invited me to a protest, and so away we went, screaming out for a person we didn’t know so that he would be able to stay in this country and that a miscarriage of justice would be righted. I met her sister as well, she told her story of compassion and caring for the sick, in hushed tones. They brightened my spirits. Just a few people in my life that I truly admire and these sisters are in that group. Thank you for the lovely story that captured them so well. Thank You all for all the great work that you have done.

  7. Jenny Says:

    You say that the table where the deep thinkers used sit now sits empty, they didn’t all move away did they ? Call them up, invite them to your house for a potluck, just get together Jesus said where ever two or more are gathered in My Name there I will be.

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