51: Sister

51: Sister

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings


What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?
~Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I don’t remember her name and would not recognize her if I were to pass her on the street. I don’t know if she is still living, as she was already elderly when I was a ten-year-old child some thirty years ago. But I do remember the kindness bestowed upon a group of underprivileged children by a stranger and the difference it has made in the life of one of those children. Me.

I remember the first time I saw her standing in the doorway of our small apartment. She was a petite, elderly woman who wore a long skirt, long wool coat and what I thought at the time was a hat reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties with its circular brim that lay flat against the head.

I could not hear what was being said as my stepfather, a man who liked no one, listened to her plead her case with such determination that I knew it had to be something she found of great importance. I was not told what was to happen that following Sunday.

A half hour before she arrived that Sunday, I was told to dress in my best clothes for I was going to church. She smiled brightly as I got into her car, the car of a complete stranger. I did not even know her name, but here I was, along with four others I recognized from our low-income neighborhood, on our way to church.

As we pulled into the parking lot, I remember how beautiful the old stone building was with its tall steeple and stained glass windows. The service seemed long, and not accustomed to the rituals of the Catholic Church, I felt out of place. But even as a child, I held a strong belief in God and felt at peace within those walls.

Once the service had ended, I expected to be taken home, but instead we headed in the opposite direction. We were taken to a small apartment with meager furnishings that portrayed a simple, unspoiled lifestyle. Two tables were set up with large boxes containing puzzles. As she made us hot chocolate, we were instructed to begin working the puzzles. It was a quiet time, free from the turmoil and constant criticism we would encounter when we returned home. And the soft words spoken by the woman we came to know only as “Sister” (I think she may have been a nun at one time) were a welcome comfort.

I came to look forward to Sundays. To hot chocolate, to puzzles that remained where we had left off the week before, and to the love I felt whenever Sister smiled at me.

Once our 1,000-piece puzzles had been completed, Sister no longer came to pick us up on Sundays. I was told she was ill and no longer able to travel. However, I wondered if perhaps it was time for her to “rescue” the next group of children. To give them hope that kindness still exists and can be found within those we call strangers.

I am forty-four years old now and have made a point to show kindness to strangers when given the chance. I am told I am crazy and too trusting, but I know God will watch over me. I know Sister may not move amongst us now, but I hope she smiles when she sees that her efforts to reach out to those less fortunate continue in those whose lives she touched in that special way.

~Tammy L. Justice

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