“I bet, just from the title, that your mind has gone to a variety of places. You are probably asking yourself, ” What could have provoked such a demonstrative response in that woman??” Well, this blog is actually a true story about an incident that occurred during my childhood.
Ever since I’ve been a small child, as far back as I can remember, I have been a “fretter”, one who frets, a world-class “Nervous Nellie”. I was afraid of my own shadow, so to speak: afraid of the dark, afraid of the water, afraid of storms and crowds and things that “go bump in the night”. Now, you may be saying that these are all common fears in children, and if you did, you would be correct in saying that. However, I had uncommonly odd and unusual fears (and I can’t believe that I’m sharing these publicly. I hope this is somehow therapeutic). I was afraid that a hand would come out from under my bed and grab me (the bogeyman, maybe). I thought this same hand might make its way to the bathroom fixtures and grab my backside when sitting on the commode. I definitely lived in a most frightening world. I’m not sure that child counselors even existed in the late Fifties/early Sixties. I think back and wonder if an exorcism wouldn’t have been more beneficial in my case.
So, by age 6, I was in first grade at St. Cecilia’s Parochial School in Leominster, Massachusetts. My teacher’s name was Sister (Sr.) Eugene and she was a ‘peach’. She needed to be. She had me for a student and a boy I’ll call Eddie D Munster who was kept back several times. We both were a handful. Sr. Eugene took many of the difficult children. She was patient, kind and a great teacher. She understood those children who weren’t quite like the rest. You see, Sr. Eugene herself, had Cerebral Palsy but she never let it interfere with her independence as a person, a nun or in her career as a teacher.
And so, at the tender age of six, just as the other first graders, I was required to get a vaccination in my arm and a polio drink which came as a suspension in a little paper cup. The drink I did not mind. The vaccination, however, I minded very much, as shots were one of my greatest fears.
The time came for our class to stand in line for the vaccination and polio drink. we stood in alphabetical order. Since my maiden surname began with the letter “D”, I was pretty close to the front of the line. The closer I got to the vaccination, the more nervous I became. At first, I started to cry, next, I’m assuming that my stomach started to get upset because I remember retching, then I started screaming. Before I knew it, Sr. Eugene scooped my small, frail body up in her one, good arm and held me close. She told me it would be okay. She pulled me out of line and we watched everyone else get their vaccine while I waited comfortable in Sr. Eugene’s warm embrace. I don’t remember anyone else screaming or crying. It may just be a time long forgotten. I know I got a vaccine and a polio drink eventually that day.
I don’t remember any pain from the vaccination. I remember getting a bandaid. The things I remember most is the fretting and the retching and the screaming and the dread and the terror and for what?
In the end, there was only kindness, instead of helplessness. Love instead of pain. Peace instead of fear. There was calmness instead of fretfulness and dread.
Isn’t that what God wants to do for us? How often do we hold onto those terrible feelings instead of giving them to him? We can go to him in prayer and lay them at the foot of the cross. In exchange, he will give us those very same gifts of love, peace, kindness, calmness, even joy and contentment. Yes, They are there for the asking.
So, the next time you feel nervous or become fret-filled, remember me and my dreadful first grade vaccination. Better still, remember Sr. Eugene and the Godly love she modeled to a group of students and teachers that autumn day so very long ago and seek that. You’ll be glad you did.
Till we meet again!