Monday, March 13, 2006

A Traumatic Night in a Convent

When I was three, I had one very bad experience that I never came to understand until I was grown. We had a friend who was a nun, Sister Francella. (My dad had met her in a German class.) One night my sisters and I spent the night at her convent. I didn't know why we were there, and no one explained it to me. All I remember is being in this bedroom alone with my sisters, and crying my head off. I think I thought we were being left for adoption. I had the worst headache I remember ever having, and they gave me some of that pink chewable aspirin to solve that. But no one told me why we were there.
I know the experience from the outside, of having a three-year-old scream her head off and not being able to solve it. But I also remember that from the inside! Finally when I was grown, I asked my Mom why we'd been there. She immediately remembered it and said we were moving, and it made it easier to have us spend the night there. Of course, that makes sense. One thing would have solved the whole problem--they could have just told me they'd come back the next morning and get me.
It bears on my present-day life, because I have done a lot of helping in the church nursery. (I just made the conscious connection about this today.) I don't mind the matter of little kids who are used to being there, or who need to get used to being there, screaming their heads off, because it has a considerable purpose. Parents need to go to church. For that reason a nursery is a good thing and screaming may be a necessary thing to endure.
A few times I watched babies, however, whose parents were going to a fundraising dinner. The babies weren't regulars in the nursery, and didn't know why they were there; they didn't know us; and I was of the opinion (I'm told by a friend that I'm opinionated, so I guess there you go) they were better off at least in the comfort of their own homes with a babysitter rather than in this unfamiliar environment. They were traumatized, they made it clear--and it was no easy thing dealing with so many screaming, unhappy and confused little ones at the same time.
So the next time I was asked to babysit for this annual fundraiser, I declined, even at the urging of the very nice lady who asked me; I felt strongly that it would be wrong, knowing I would be instrumental in subjecting those babies to that again. I thought about it later and examined in my mind whether I was unreasonable. In my own mind I wasn't. But it made me feel better today to connect the nursery situation with that overnighter in the convent so many years ago--and I'm truly convinced they were connected.
It is clear in the Bible that the traumas we experience (and to me at 3 that was a trauma, trivial as it may seem) bring us to better consider the sufferings of others. We are put through those things to better understand another's plight, to empathize, and to comfort those in trouble or sorrow. Maybe others wouldn't connect those two situations but it seems very logical to me. (Not that I'm one of those people who gets into memories and traumas and analyzing these things much in a "psychological" sort of way, but I do think my experience at 3 affected my response at 45.) 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 says, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ. But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort."
Actually I have a funny footnote about that nun. She came over one time for Thanksgiving. I don't know in what context I mentioned it at the time, but our family had always called the turkey's tail the "Pope's nose." I'd never thought twice about what that signified, it was just a name. But I used the term and Sister Francella let out a hearty laugh--much to my confusion and my mother's relief.

1 comment:

J.OTIS MERSTER said...

What a small world-or a small Bible-I have my Bible open to the 2 Cor. passage you quoted right here beside me, quoting it to a friend to give her comfort.
Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. It is so true! My husband and I often wonder why it is that the world will look EVERYWHERE- absolutely everywhere for answer's to life's questions EXCEPT THE BIBLE. Maybe that's just too easy, or they think the Bible is only for little old ladies who sit at home and knit.