Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Better than the flying variety:

Sister Eileen, the Hitchiking Nun

Each morning deep into her 80s, the nun would choose a corner on top of Queen Anne Hill. There she'd wait, watching passing cars and trucks and praying to "Our Blessed Mother" to send her the right ride to her "work" making lunches for the needy at the St. Vincent de Paul kitchen of Sacred Heart Church across from Seattle Center.

When she sensed the driver was safe, Sister Eileen wasn't passive. She stepped off the curb in front of the oncoming car to make certain it would stop. "They're not going to run over me in a veil!" she said with a laugh when we first met five years ago.

Afternoons, Sister Eileen would reverse the route, cadging rides home to St. Anne's Parish in everything from low-slung limousines with cocktail tables in the back to rusty trucks too high for her without a hand-up from the wheel man.

It never failed. Every morning she made it to work by 7:30 a.m. Every evening she arrived home intact.

Why she did it was hard for her to explain even to the other Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary. She told them what she told me -- that trust can be contagious. If she trusted people enough to hop into their cars and they trusted her enough to let her in, everyone went away feeling better.

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