My first storyteller is from close to home. Richard and Cheryl Miller and their family attend the same church we do. Cheryl and I share an enjoyment for writing and (a discovery made while working together on the food committee) a mutual dislike for making phone calls! This year marks 25 years of marriage for them, so it seemed like a good time to do some reminiscing.
You can enjoy more of Cheryl's writing by visiting her blog The Latest Scoop. And now for part 1 of their story.....
Once upon a time there was a Mennonite girl who grew up on the east coast relatively happy & secure, in the middle of a family of boys. She dreamed of being a nurse from the time she was a little girl. She was ambitious, disciplined and tenacious about finishing what she started. Life was good.
In the Mennonite culture, most young ladies grow up to be wives & mothers. Not career women. “A woman’s place is in the home” is part of the Mennonite holy grail, and many a young lady dreams of nothing else than being a mommy from the time she is old enough to hold a doll. But not this young lady –she never fit that mold. In a school report about her goals in life, the husband was halfway down the page and children were at the end. Unlike secular society, Mennonite teens don’t automatically expect to go to college when they finish high school. Higher education was not the norm, especially back in the 90s. College degrees were expensive and not to be entered into lightly, then thrown away when Mr. Right came along. Thus this girl’s parents placed a condition on her quest for an RN degree – she was allowed to go to college as long as she was not dating.
Various persons who had an inside scoop on the medical field advised her to get a job as a CNA first- start at the bottom of the totem pole. They nodded their heads sagely and agreed “The best nurses are the ones who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty, ones that do more than hand out pills, the ones that know how to do the grunt work.”
Now this young lady was also interested in doing some voluntary service work. She was introduced by a co-worker to Hillcrest, a nursing home in far off Arkansas that used VS staff. Two birds with one stone! She applied and was accepted; she acquired a whole new wardrobe and merrily moved halfway across the country at the ripe old age of 17 (almost 18).
You have to understand that in the culture she came from, young people went into VS when they were 17 or 18 because typically they got married when they were 18 or 19. To reach the age of 20 and still be unattached was to begin withdrawing from the youth group as an old maid. She did not believe she was doing anything unusual by waltzing off to Hillcrest as a teenager –she was simply on a quest. Despite some bumpy adjustments to the Beachy culture, she loved her job. Taking care of the elderly was interesting, though not her intended future specialty. And she was delighted to discover the whole world does not operate on a schedule that deems one an ‘old maid’ by age 21. There was plenty of time to pursue a 4 year degree and only then start thinking about marriage. Plan A was falling into place perfectly. True, it meant hanging out with folks that believe growing out male facial hair is holy & sanctioned by God and –horror of horrors- believed in the cute but sacrilegious practice of putting a headship covering –with strings!- on little girls who had not yet submitted their life to Christ. But there was time to worry about that later.
About 6 months into this VS stint, a certain young Beachy man from the Midwest received a plea to fill a VS position at the same nursing home. The medical field was no interest of his, but he was willing to forsake the family business and invest a year of service, so he agreed to give it a whirl. He traded in truck keys and mechanic tools for white uniforms, wheelchairs and bedpans.
Given some time –and possibly a little covert help from the Unit Leader who handled the scheduling- Miss Mennonite & Mr. Beachy found their paths crossing with great regularity. There were no fireworks, no love at first sight. But they worked together, played together, worshiped together. They simply got along exceptionally well. They mutually agreed they were just friends, nothing more. This gave them the delicious freedom to be themselves, no expectations. By this time Miss Mennonite had applied to the college of her choice back home and was accepted into the program. She had her eye on the goal –a bachelor degree in nursing, and no bachelor was going to derail her!
Stay tuned for Part 2 on Thursday....
Stay tuned for Part 2 on Thursday....