The Teacher Who Gave Me Life- and a Living

mcdargh
Posted October 28, 2017 from United States
CEO of the Resiliency Group

Today, I laugh and say the reason I am short is that I have a twin brother so half of me is a professor at Boston College.

But it wasn't always funny. In those dreaded days in Catholic school when they lined up by size, I seemed to inevitably lead the parade. That wouldn't have been so bad but it seemed that the rest of me fell way behind the others. I was the only one to wear the ugly brown "sensible" oxford shoes. I was the only one with thick ugly glasses and a mouth filled with metal braces. No one else in my class had either. I was "ahead of my time" and also ahead of the time when such items would be "cool".

To say I didn't fit in would be an understatement. Worse, my twin and I were smart. My peers didn't mind a smart guy but a smart girl-- no way! Needless to say, my self-confidence and self-esteem were in the toilet.

Just prior to the start of high school, we moved to a town far away. Since no one knew me, perhaps I could have a fresh start. Easier said than done. How I remember standing in the corner of my first Freshman dance and wishing I could magically disappear. Unbeknown to me, the school was in a wealthy section of town and instead of the regular school uniforms, students could dress up for a dance. My loafers which mom has dyed red and my inexpensive olive green dress with red belt seemed old and dated. No one, girl or boy, even talked to me. How I remember coming home from that horrid dance and sobbing while Mom rocked me.

Then, a fateful day that fall, Sister John Margaret cornered my after World History class and asked that I stay after school.

"Why? I haven't done anything wrong?" I am sure my lower lip must have trembled.

Her eyes twinkled and she said, " Of course not. I want you on the debate team we are starting!"

Trust me, when you grow up Catholic, you NEVER say no to a nun.

Sister John Margaret was only at that school for one year. But in that year, she moved me through debate, extemp. speaking and oral interpretation. She entered me in every speaking competition. And I won many. She saw something in me that I did not and made it her mission to help me transform from a caterpillar into a butterfly.

Decades later, I contacted Sister John Margaret, a Franciscan from Joliet, IL . The phone range at the home for battered women which she was then managing.

" Sister this is Eileen McDargh. I don't know if you remember me but..."

" But of course I do. We had many special trips to speaking tournaments!" I

" Sister, I owe you so much. Because you saw something in me and would not take 'no" for an answer, I now speak for a living. I've lectured before groups ranging from 25 to15,000 and it's a magical experience. How can I ever thank you?"

She paused. "The go and do likewise with your work. Help people believe in themselves and their God-given worth."

Thank you.

Comments 11

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Aditi Gupta
Oct 28, 2017
Oct 28, 2017

Thank you for sharing your story—I can really jive with a lot of your childhood / coming of age experiences. I’m so glad you believed in yourself (even with the pushing/prodding of a nun) and have become so successful. Congratulations and keep it up! 

mcdargh
Oct 29, 2017
Oct 29, 2017

Thanks so much. I am glad it was meaningful to you

Jill Langhus
Oct 29, 2017
Oct 29, 2017

Hi Eileen. What a great story you have there. Very inspiring, and I love your guardian angel, Sister John Margaret. It's great, too, that you went back to tell her what a great success you were and to give her kudos. You may want to consider entering this story in the call for entries section under "I Am Thankful for You Because": https://www.worldpulse.com/en/voices-rising/story-awards/80218, so more people can enjoy your story:-)

mcdargh
Oct 29, 2017
Oct 29, 2017

So how do I submit it.  I thought when I wrote this it was already submitted.

Jill Langhus
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

I think there is a glitch, at the moment. It seems like people are submitting but it's not always "taking," if you know what I mean. You can resubmit it, if you like, and then just go on the submissions page to see if it is there. It also shows as a link at the bottom of your story, saying "This post was submitted in response to I Am Thankful for You Because...."

mcdargh
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

OK..I just resubmitted. No more time now,   If it doesn't take well. so be it.

Jill Langhus
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

Okay. I don't see it, but I'm letting the WP staff know about it. Sorry about that.

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 29, 2017
Oct 29, 2017

Hi Eileen,

Your story gripped me from start to finish. My heart was wrung out to read that you got in touch with Sister John Margaret to thank her. So now she is working for a shelter! I wonder if she and the women there would love to know about your involvement in and their potential involvement in WorldPulse? 

In sisterhood,

Tam

mcdargh
Oct 29, 2017
Oct 29, 2017

I don't know. It was probably 20 years agho when I found Sister John Margaret. I can ask!

maeann
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

Hello mcdargh ,

Thank you for sharing your experience and how you have become who you are now through her encouragement with you, and most importantly, you listened.

mcdargh
Oct 30, 2017
Oct 30, 2017

Thanks ever so much!