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My first experience with the Little Sisters was when I was in first or second grade at Most Blessed Sacrament School. The school was having a canned good drive for the Little Sisters Home down the street. I wondered how the Sisters could live off tomato soup because that was all that mom would part with. Little did I know that one day I would be helping stack all the canned goods that would be coming in on food drives – and it’s not just tomato soup! People are always generous to the Sisters because they are aware of their mission and the work they do. Many of the older men I meet who had lived nearby in their younger years remember serving Mass in the morning before school or helping out around the Home in some way. They also remember the wall which rose high up from the property. The older women have all kinds of stories of helping out around the Home and being touched by the gratitude of the Residents.
When I was a little older we would play half ball on 53rd street outside the Home. Sometimes we would hit the ball over the wall. Then we would jump on the wall, scope out the grounds to make sure that none of the “ladies in black” or the dogs were around. Only then would one of us jump inside and fetch the ball. After a while jumping on the wall and teasing the dogs became a game. (Sorry Mother Odile). We would run when the Sisters came out. If our mothers had known, we would have been dead meat!
Then, in high school I got into an after school/summer work program and was sent to work at the Home. At that time the Home was set up in dormitory style, and it had a men’s side and a ladies’ side. The men hung out in the TV/smoke room which had its own barber shop, full size pool table, high mounted TV (high tech for the times) which was very cool. The Sisters believe that cleanliness is next to godliness; so, we were always busy cleaning. Everyone had assigned jobs. Many of the Residents would help to clean up after meals, help run the dish machines, clean the tables down, etc. There was a lot of work to be done, and the Sisters, Residents and staff would all pitch in to get it done. At that time there were few lay people working at the Home, so you could find yourself working anywhere which was good. You would get to know all the Residents, and they would get to know you. They would always be praising the Sisters and telling me how good they had it here. That’s when I started to realize how the work of the Sisters made a building a “True Home” for the Residents. This showing of true love for our Residents carries over to the employees. It has helped me to keep focus in life and know the true meaning of caring for our elders. I recall one day running an errand for work. I called back to the Home to let them know I would be back shortly. The receptionist said, “You’re not coming back to work.” She knew that the Little Sisters is my home – my second home, if not my first. The Residents have always welcomed me into their house and treated me like I was their grandson. So I have 50 grandmoms and 50 granddads!
When I am out and mention that I work at the Little Sisters. someone in the setting will be aware of the Home in some way. Maybe their mom or dad was a Resident or an aunt or uncle. The words are always positive. Sometimes they volunteered here or have family members. But no matter what, everyone who knows the Little Sisters of the Poor knows of their deep love and commitment to the elderly. The Home is a wonderful place to live, and it is also a great and loving place to work.