One Monday morning, at an assembly meeting when I was attending a girls’ high school, our school principal started the morning by having us sing our Alma Mater. While the song has beautiful sentimental lyrics, the musical arrangement is something that would probably challenge a seasoned opera singer. We began to sing:
St. Joseph Our Patron,
St. Joseph Our Aide,
May Your Dear Memory Never Fade.
Be Our Beacon,
Be Our Light.
Help Us Always to Do What’s Right …
A pacing Sister Barbara Joseph stopped us mid-mater. She was deeply disgusted by our tone deaf rendition of our school’s sacred Alma Mater. In Sister Barbara Joseph’s defense, while she was heavy-handed with us, we unquestioningly deserved every minute of her diatribe. It’s true we were a motley crew. Most of us had spent the weekend making out with our respective boyfriends (certainly I can speak for myself), eating a diet comprised solely of Oreos and Tab, and in the tradition of teenage girls everywhere, being incredibly self-indulgent. I’m sure left to our own devices, each of us would be in bed watching All My Children and talking on the phone. While Sister Barbara Joseph’s outburst would never be compared to a character’s from the movie The Magdalene Sisters, she shook us up enough to re-sing our school song well enough for her to be satisfied with our rendition.
It had only been the week previous that I had been called out in religion class for passing notes. Sister Mary Rodgers (the real life sister of “Rueben Kincaid” Dave Madden from The Partridge Family—great, right?!) intercepted the note and read it aloud to the class. As if it were written in ancient hieroglyphics that she had been heretofore unfamiliar with, she slowly, syllable by syllable, read the note aloud. “Miss Aussstin would like to share with the classsssss that the GGGGOOO-GGGGOOOs are in town.” Then she added, for effect, “Thank you Miss Austin for demonstrating your attention and allegiance to the Gos-Gos over Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Being the joker that I was and still am, I was tempted to stand and curtsy, but I knew that just might win me a trip to Sister B.J.’s office, and I wasn’t going out like that. Although Sister Mary Rodgers was my favorite teacher at St. Josephs, being the intellectual slob that I was, I really couldn’t be bothered to care about academics in her or any other teacher’s class. While even then I understood that Christ’s merits far surpassed those of Belinda Carlisle, I really was lazy, undisciplined, and intransigently sybaritic.
I think I may be the most surprised of all to see that I have moved from such a lack of discipline and into someone who likes to relax, but is also highly disciplined. Discipline that comes from a healthy loving place within, rather than the fear based motivation, “I am not enough and not doing enough” kind, is what I am sure Sister Barbara Joseph and Sister Mary Rodgers would hope for all of us. The Lao Tzu quote (that I’ve been told is misinterpreted in English—but let’s use that interpretation for our purposes today) “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step,” can be a helpful tool. If you have trouble getting motivated and staying on track, you may want to choose one thing to do to move you in a direction that honors your gifts. Start where you are and with what truly and naturally motivates you. Knowing that others suffer was something that motivated me to discipline myself enough to be in a position to help alleviate it. What are you passionate about?
I’ve recently heard that Sister Barbara Joseph passed away. I can only hope she is looking down on me from the heavens and is happy to watch me building my business, answering emails and telephone calls in a timely fashion, and embracing Jesus consistently over the Go-Gos. Occasionally, I still eat some Oreo cookies and watch some indulgent reality television (research for my work of course), but I hope she gets to see that her efforts to get me to put some elbow grease into life did not go completely wasted.