Once, when I was a student in Poland, I was living in a dormitory taken care of by Ursuline sisters.
It was a Wednesday morning on November 2nd when I came downstairs to do my laundry.
The kind ginger sister, a young Catholic from Russia, Sister Maria, took pity on me but the elderly Sister Elisabeth at her side at reception was clearly dismayed at the need to make an exception. I approached the reception window at the entrance lobby of my dormitory with a plastic bag, full of dirty laundry, my bottle of detergent, my ID card to exchange for the laundry room key and five złoty in change to receive a special coin to activate the washing machine.
They both looked at me with a look that said, “Shouldn’t you know better?” But, in truth, I didn’t know better.
“Today is a holiday,” Sister Maria stated, alluding to All Souls’ Day.
On the feast day of John Paul II, I am remembering this anecdote from my time in Poland:
One day, after breakfast, I was sitting in Starbucks and an elderly gentleman began speaking to me in Polish.
“I’m sorry, I don’t speak Polish,” I told him.
Almost everyone has been to cocktail receptions and networking events.
Given my interest in visiting cemeteries, it just occurred to me to contemplate networking with the dead. There is no exchange of business cards, but there can be an exchange nonetheless. A thoughtful walk through a cemetery has sometimes been as helpful as any career advice.
Networking with the dead, it would seem, demands getting out of your comfort zone, going over to the tombs with the most personality, but also seeking out the ones that are neglected or discreet. It involves being curious and interested. It involves not being intimidated to talk to people who are older than you, wiser than you.
Sometimes, on special occasions, I have visited cemeteries on guided tours which means that I have had someone else making introductions for me to the dead.
This has been most helpful for breaking the ice, especially when I do not know whether or not we have very much in common.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the word “clinical” may denote “expressing no emotion or feelings” or “showing no character and warmth.” The sentence that is given to illustrate its meaning is this: “We were going to paint our kitchen white, but we decided that would look too clinical.”
Do you ever wonder why hospitals and doctor’s offices are so drab? Why does there seem to be so little attention paid to aesthetics? What impact does this have on doctors, nurses, patients, and visitors?
One day, Cecily Saunders, the British pioneer of modern-day hospice care, was “magnetically drawn” to an oil painting in a gallery window. She was so taken by it that she parked her car and entered the gallery moments before they were closing on the last day of the exhibition. Cecily Saunders moved eagerly from painting to painting. The blue Crucifixion had been the piece to catch her eye from the window, but the piece she impulsively chose to purchase was of ‘Christ Calming the Waters.’
The following day, she wrote the following to the artist, Marian Bohusz-Szyszko:
Janusz Korczak is a name I wish everyone could know. A Polish Jewish author, pedagogue, and orphanage director, he refused offers for his own safety during the Second World War and was deported, along with all of the children of the orphanage, to the Nazi death camp Treblinka where he and they were killed in 1942.
Over the years, I have come upon monuments commemorating Korczak and the children at Treblinka, in Warsaw, and at Yad Vashem in Israel.