Today’s act-of-kindness story takes place in September 1954 when I began college at Mount Saint Scholastica in Atchison, Kansas. Just three months before, I’d graduated from St. Mary’s High School in Independence, Missouri, a small town with a population of about 30,000 at the time. St. Mary’s was also small. Its entire enrollment was only about 140 students, of which 30 or so of us were seniors.
My senior picture, sans eyeglasses. The photographer “prettied” me up!
Mom drove me up to the Mount in early September where I encountered a freshman class of about 140 students—as many as the entire student body at St. Mary’s High School. Many of these young women had come from small towns as had I; but many others were from Chicago and eastern states like New Jersey and New York.
It seemed to me then that I was a true hick among sophisticates. And so I became tongue tied. To make matters even worse, I’d lost a tooth filling on the trip up to the Mount. I was going to college on a scholarship and Mom didn’t have the money to give me to go to a dentist in Atchison so I had to find a way to keep the cavity secret.
Every time I smiled at some one in the dorm or the halls of the administration building, I kept the right side of my mouth stiff so as to cover what seemed to me to be a gaping hole in my lower right-hand canine tooth.
In my mind, I thought that everyone must see me as that strange, cavity-ridden, acne-faced kid from the town where President Truman lived. I was miserable and after two weeks of awkward smiling and talking, of hearing stories about plays on Broadway, and about air travel, I knew that I didn’t belong in college. I was just a country bumpkin.
Mount Saint Scholastica College Administration Building—1954
One of the freshman—Marge Tansley from Chicago—befriended me during those two weeks. Somehow she found something to like in me despite the dark hole in my tooth. As Marge and I sat in the rec room on the first floor of the ad building, I dolefully confided my decision to quit college and return home. I moaned about my gaucheness, my ineptitude, my ignorance, my lack of social graces, and on and on and on.
Marge took me in hand. Instead of calling me “Dolores,” the name by which I’d always been known, she welcomed me into the kingdom of nicknames. Surely that meant she liked me!
“Dee,” Marge said, “you belong here just as much as any of us do. Give us a chance. We’re already friends. You’ll make lots more. Come on! Stay! Stop thinking of yourself all the time.”
I protested. She insisted. I moaned some more. She shook me by the shoulders. I finally relented. “Okay. I’ll stay four more weeks. Just four.”
She hugged me. And that, my friends, changed my life. I stayed at the Mount, made many friends among the student body, got an excellent education, became involved in student government, and on April 10, 1957, in my junior year, I realized that I wanted to enter the Mount convent after I graduated the next year.
For me two roads diverged: stay or leave. I stayed and that “has made all the difference” as the poet Robert Frost would say.
That difference came about because of Marge Tansley, who entered the convent after our freshmen college year. We met again at the sesquicentennial celebrate this past weekend. She is yet another blessing in my life. As are all of you. Peace.
Here I am as a freshman in St. Lucy’s dorm
after Marge encouraged me to stop thinking of myself
and to start concentrating on my classmates.
PS: Tomorrow, I’ll post one more story about the kindness others have extended to me. But before I do that I’d like to explain what prompted these postings. They are part of the Wayman Publishing blog fest, which ends today—Friday, May 31.
Wayman is offering ten e-books as free downloads to you. Other books are offered at a greatly reduced press. Both of Dulcy’s e-books—A Cat’s Life and A Cat’s Legacy—are available. The first for 99 cents and the second for free.
Almost seventy other bloggers are participating in this celebration of random acts of kindness. If you’d like to read other stories of how we gently touch one another’s lives, please click here to find information on the other bloggers and their postings as well as the names of the ten free downloads.