The lessons from Sister Hanky

When I was in fourth grade the nun who taught our class was nicknamed Sister Hanky, because as she made her was between the rows of students, in one hand she carried an 18 inch rubber flexible ruler that she would bring down upon the gentle and flawless hands of the fourth graders who she deemed worthy of her scorn, and in the other hand, always present, was a small handkerchief.
On an almost daily basis Sister Hanky would saunter towards my unkept desk, see me drawing fabulous pictures of ostriches and dinosaurs and making jokes about dirty sea captains and dangerous bird poop and she would swoop in upon me, using that rubbery ruler with a guile usually reserved for the likes of James Bond, smashing my hand with a force hard enough to break a diamond, or at least that’s how it felt. I would scream out in pain, but only once, because Sister Hanky would be glaring at me, reminding me that a punishment from her was to be met with a strictly enforced code of complete silence. I would whimper and then bite my lip, sometimes a tear would form from my eye, but I would quickly wipe it and begin to do my homework.
This was our daily routine my entire fourth grade year in the class of Sister Hanky. One day in November, as my classmates were leaving for recess, Sister Hanky took me aside and asked if I enjoyed the daily beatings from her ruler. “Of course not,” I said, almost shocked that she would ask such a ridiculous question.
“You know, you have the power to make them stop,” she said, in that authoritarian way she said everything. I stammered then and just said, meekly, “I can’t.”
“Then you must enjoy the pain, good day,” and she held the door open and I walked out into the sunny day and enjoyed another mirthless recess.
While I didn’t actually enjoy the pain, I guess I did learn to anticipate it and accept it as the trade off I got for taking the time to be silly, entertain my friends and act out in a fashion that I found fun. Sister Hanky would never break my spirit. I did know that Sister Hanky did teach me one of those lessons that has been kind of handy, it’s never the pain that will bring you down, it’s the process of earning the pain that makes accepting the pain a little easier.
I learned in fourth grade that if you do the things that bring you a little bit of joy, but in turn may bring you a little bit of discomfort, the trade off is probably worth it.


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