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A High, but Hidden Calling

In The Seven-Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton comments that good people are usually hidden. Several years later, I've become convinced he's right. Olive convinced me.

Olive grew up poor, in rural West Virginia, in a shotgun house that rattled every time the train went by. She married young, and her husband died suddenly, leaving her a house full of kids. As Olive neared retirement age, she had no money to speak of, so she took a job in a nursing home. She would walk to work, stiff from her arthritis, descend to the sweltering laundry room, and wash linens soiled by the old and incontinent.

Olive would also baby-sit. She'd walk into our house like Mary Poppins, laden with bags of crafts and videos. Crying babies were music to her; she'd take a caterwauling infant, place it on her ample bosom and magically soothe it to sleep.

I would drive Olive home and watch her climb with difficulty to her second-floor apartment. Many times I would shake my head. I have seen Olive worried—about medical bills—but ...

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