Sister Dolorita, wherever you are
One of the nicer
aspects of running a community web site like
www.emmitsburg.net, is the opportunity it offers me to
work closely with people I would normally only have a
passing acquaintance with.
While the last three
years have been demanding as the site grew from just a
handful of web pages to its present size of over 4,500
pages, it's nevertheless been an enjoyable, and sometime
downright humorous time. If I had to pick the most
enjoyable time, it clearly would be working with the
Daughters of Charity on their
Seton Shrineís web site.
Having had my head
banged against the chalkboard by more then one nun
during my 16 years of Catholic schooling, Iíll admit, I
didnít have the greatest fondness for Sisters ... every
time I saw one, I would flashback to 7th grade and
Sister Dolorita who seemed to relish in grabbing my ear
at every opportunity ... Iím sure I deserved it, but why
ruin a good flashback with the truth ...
Unlike my memories of
Sister Dolorita, the Sisters at the Provincial house
were downright saintly. And like saints, they are
willing to make due with what ever they have, and that I
quickly discover, included computers so old that only
the nightly prayers keep them going.
I was particularly
impressed by the tenacity of one very, very old sister,
who I came across hard at work translating a book using
a computer running Windows 3.0 and a 13 inch monitor. I
was awed. It had been years since I had last seen a
working version of Windows 3.0, let alone a monitor so
To make matters worse,
her eyesight appeared to be so poor, that the lettering
on the screen had to be so large that only half the
width of the page showed at any one time. Which might
have been bearable had the background been white and she
had a mouse, but it wasnít and she didnít.
Instead the background
was a dark gray, which made the black letters hard for
even me to see. And to move around the screen, she
painstakingly and methodically taped the arrow keys. As
I watched her, I couldnít help but think of monks in the
middle ages who would spend their life time copying a
single book ...
"Sister," I said, " Is
there any reason the background of your page is dark?"
"No," She replied
sheepishly, ĎItís always been that way."
"Would you like it to
be white? That would make the letters easier to read." I
"Oh that would be very
It took me a while to
figure out how tweak the system, but with the help of
the Smithsonian museum, I soon had the colors set right.
The sister sat and
nodded approvingly. Then asked: "Is there any way you
can make the letters smaller?"
"Smaller?" I said,
"Forgive me sister, but thought you needed the larger
print just to read it."
"Oh no," She replied,
"my eyesight is as good as a the day I was born ..."
"Then why are the
letters that larger," I asked.
"I donít know, thatís
the way its always been," she answered.
"Forgive my for asking,
but how long is Ďalwaysí?" I asked.
"Itís been like this
for four years," she replied mater of factually.
I was floored. Only a
saint in the making would have put up with those
conditions for so long and never complain.
Alas one can only do so
much with a 13 inch monitor, so I began to cast about
for a larger monitor. All my inquires however led to
dead ends. There were none in the entire house not in
use ... or so I was told.
"What about the 17 inch
monitor I saw up in the conference room? It doesnít look
like it in use." I asked.
My escorts went quite
and smiled at each other. "We canít take it ... weíre
ĎBlue Skirtsí, but ..."
They didnít have to say
anything more. Just like in the corporate world,
sometimes it takes an outsider to get management to do
what the staff has been telling them to do ...
"Blue Skirts!" I would
never have believed it had I not heard them say it. I
wondered if they called the sisters in upper management
"White Skirts ..."
But I digress ...
With my "Blue Skirted"
culprits in crime in tow, I dashed into the conference
room and unhooked the monitor and had it set up and
running in front of the now thoroughly delighted sister,
before its owner could track us down.
"Oh thank you sister
for lending my your monitor," bubbled the old sister as
the former owner rushed into the room. "Now that I can
see the whole page at once, my work will go much faster
I wasnít sure if it was
the "God Bless you" that she closed with, or the happy
look on her old, worn face, but any thought of
reclaiming the monitor was quickly forgotten, and our
My "Blue Skirted"
escorts barely hid their giggles ...
"OK, now lets get you a
"Mouse? Weíre not
allowed to have any pets, but thank you for offering me
"No, sister, I mean a
mouse, a computer mouse ..."
"Have they trained
mouses to work with computers? My Oh my, what will they
think of next? But I still canít have one, it is against
the rules ..."
It took me a while, but
I finally got the idea across, and the old sister, hands
wracked with by arthritis, warmed quickly to using it.
As I drove home that
night, I found myself reflecting on how patient that old
sister was, and that I, and others could learn much from
her example. In todayís world of instant gratification
itís often hard to remember good thing always take time,
and always take work. And yes, sometimes you have to
suffer, and grin and bear it, till someone notices you,
but its always worth it in the end.
I was also impressed at
how quickly and willing she adapted. Too often today we
hear the excuse "Iím too old to change," or "its always
been that way, so why bother to change it." Those that
echo those words always lose out. Life is about change.
Its about learning. But more important, its about
helping and learning from each other.
That wonderful old, old
sister could have easily been a Sister Dolorita back in
her heyday, pounding heads of wayward young boys like
myself into blackboards ... upon reflection, it occurred
to me that Sister Dolorita did get my attention, and in
doing so set me on a straight and narrow course. For
that I am grateful. Too bad it took me 30 years to
finally understand, but as my new best friend the old
sister said: "better late then never."
No its my turn to
return the favor ...
Thanks Sister Dolorita,
wherever you are ... and thanks to all Sisters -
other stories by Michael Hillman