How can you tell?

"You're a nun, aren't you?" asked the receptionist at the main desk of an office building.

I said, "Yes, I am. How did you know?"

"I see lots of folks come through here every day, so I'm getting pretty good at understanding folks. You just seem like a nun."

My habit is secular dress, so she couldn't make her observation by externals alone. "What gives it away?" I ask.

"That's easy. You're at such peace. Other women come here all stressed out by who knows what — their spouses or children or money worries, like car payments and staggering bills. Some women appear to have no time for any conversation, as though they're already frazzled by the day itself. Then some other women are focused on themselves — my job, my next project, my desired promotion, my work day ahead, and so on. The message from them is, 'Here I am, I'm really important.' But you come along, are friendly, are interested in me, and act as though have all the time in the world. Nuns are like that. So this is how I knew. Don't change! The world needs your example."

[Nancy Linenkugel is a Sylvania Franciscan sister and chair of the department of Health Services Administration at Xavier University, Cincinnati Ohio.]

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