In 1958, a Los Angeles Times columnist went on vacation, and the newspaper asked some guest columnists to fill in. One of these guest columnists was a local sports broadcaster who had just moved west with the Dodgers. Vin Scully wrote about the nun and the priest who encouraged him along the way, and in fewer than 600 words he beautifully explained religion, community, adulthood and the anxiety that puddles inside every post-adolescent male.
I'm cutting out the part about the priest, but here's the part about the nun.
Her name was Sister Virginia Maria and she sat behind a large, scuffed desk in an eighth-grade classroom that smelled of ink and chalk dust. She carried a tiny tin pail of water and a little sponge for cleaning the blackboard and it was badge of her profession as much as her long black habit and string of beads.
She was a member of that wonderful group of women known as the Sisters of Charity. She smiled with blue eyes behind a pair of thick spectacles and she frowned with a yardstick across the back of your knuckles. She was a teacher, mother, nurse and confidante to a group of 50 children in a small parish in New York and, above all, she was my friend. She helped me become a sports announcer.
I HAD WRITTEN a composition along with the rest of the class about my ambitions for the future, and out of the pile of young dreams concerning a desire to be a doctor or a nurse, teacher or policeman, my left-handed scrawl about a life in radio touched a responsive chord. She helped me hurdle embarrassment and made me read aloud to the class every day. She corrected and improved, criticized and encouraged and, above all, paid me the highest compliment–she listened.
THE TRANSITION TO CALIFORNIA has not been an easy one. After eight years of hard work in New York it was like beginning all over again. Trying too hard to make a good impression with a new audience sometimes led to mistakes that I felt I had long since overcome and many times I wished I could erase them with that sponge and little pail of water from grammar school.
I HOPE I CAN BECOME a reasonable success in Los Angeles for the sake of my wife and my family. And I'd like to feel that a kind little nun and a thoughtful priest back in New York will be proud of me.
Gosh I'm looking forward to meeting him.
(You can read the whole thing if you have a Long Beach Public Library card, which probably doesn't apply to many of you. If you can find an LAT archive, though, the piece ran on June 7, 1958.)
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