Tuesday, October 1, 2013
For those that haven't had the pleasure of meeting her, Sister Marge is a Franciscan nun, who has been a missionary her whole life. She taught grade school, worked in Mexico for a few years, then worked in administration at the convent for a while before settling in Kentucky to work with the good people there.
Marge has always been so much more than an aunt to me. As little girls, my cousins, Elaine and Diane, and myself, would spend a week with her each summer, working side by side with her -- travelling to people's houses and helping her do whatever she needed done -- sorting shoes, helping in her store, whatever -- and there was always a whole lotta fun that week, too.
We would go on picnics, and hike through the Appalachian Mountains with her. Two outings with her really stick out in my mind -- one night she took us to Renfro Valley to see a country music show. It was my first real "show" of any kind -- it was so exciting! I have no idea who we saw, but I remember the room being huge (I would love to see it now and see if I still think that!) and the acts being great!
Another time, she took us through a drive through area where you could see many different kinds of animals. At one point, we saw a bear way far away in the distance. For whatever reason, all three of us were riding in the back seat of the car. I was in the middle (because I had to keep Elaine and Diane apart! LOL) -- Elaine was on the left (behind Marge) and Diane on the right. When we got out of the car to look at the bear, Diane got out on her side and Elaine and I got out on the other side, because we were closer to the bear. Well, let me tell you -- that bear was probably 1/2 mile away -- but as soon as it took ONE STEP, Elaine dove back in the car. The problem? She forgot I was behind her!!! I STILL remember hitting my head on the door of the car that day -- and then laughing hysterically for a long time at our fear of a bear that really wasn't close enough to harm us. (In fact, I'm still laughing -- with tears running down my face -- remembering this story!)
All of these thoughts kept flooding back to me in the days leading up to her receiving this award. But more than the funny stories, what I kept thinking about was what we really learned those weeks we spent with her. You see, Marge is a missionary nun. Her job is to serve those who need served. She does this so incredibly well.
If my memory serves me correctly, we stayed in three different places with her -- the rectory in McKee, KY; and then her first house in Booneville, KY, which held the little shed that would eventually become the first Catholic church in the county; and finally, her house by their "big church" that they built when they had built the "church" up. My memories from all three places are warm and wonderful. The people that she works with (both other nuns and the people she serves) are incredible. Between her and them, I learned some very valuable lessons. Many of the people in these towns have very little. It's mountainous land, so companies really don't want to build factories there because of the difficulty getting supplies there, so many people are unemployed. Yet they don't want to move, because their families are there. They want to remain close to each other.
I went with her to many homes that many of us would not really call homes -- dirt floors, very few (if any at all) furnishings - they were lucky to have running water and heat in the winter. Each week, she picks people up for church, because many can't drive -- either because they don't have a license or they don't have a vehicle. It always made me chuckle because church starts on Saturday evening when everyone's there!!! I remember hearing them call roll call before starting mass to be sure it didn't start before everyone was there!
I learned so many lessons from her (and them) that I have tried to keep in my life -- appreciate what you have because many would love to have even half of what we have!
Probably the biggest lesson that all of the people in Kentucky have taught me over the years, though, is simple. Many of the people that Marge exposed me to had little to nothing. Their "Sunday best" and my "Sunday best" were two very different things. But, they had heart. Lots and lots of heart. And lots and lots of love for the Lord!
For many years, I would spend my birthday with Marge. We would sort and distribute gifts to people who otherwise would not have a Christmas. It would always drive home to me the spirit of Christmas. When I got married and had my family, I got out of that habit. I have been feeling the tug to go back. I think that this year is my year to go back. I think I need a little reminder of just what Christmas is all about.
I couldn't be prouder of this woman I call my aunt. She has faced adversity in her life head on. She has accomplished things many of us only dream of. But more importantly, she has helped many in her community deal with the daily struggles that they have -- sometimes that is just getting dinner on the table.
Congratulations on this award, but also thank you for teaching me, and others about humanity and compassion and love. Love you, Marge!