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COVID-19: ‘Lessons’ Learned

As we continue adhering to social distancing and sheltering-in-place guidelines, we hear many stories of “lessons” learned.

This blog is about a few things I’ve learned about our sisters’ food and beverage choices.

Sister Ann Casper at the serving line. Taco Tuesday is always a favorite.

Here at our Motherhouse, we have buffet meals, three times a day. We typically go through the buffet line on both sides, make our selections and take a place at a table with five of our sisters.

With the pandemic, that has all changed. This is the routine now.

The food is served by a sister or staff volunteers from one side of the buffet. When volunteers arrive, handwashing is the first order of business, then the garbing of hairnets, aprons, masks, and plastic gloves. Sisters to be served wait in the hallway, 6-feet apart (marked by X’s on the floor), or they get called out by the volunteer sister hostess. Hand sanitizer comes next for them, and if they forget, you’ll hear this admonition from the volunteer sister hostess: “You didn’t sanitize! And, no, the fact that you just washed your hands before you left your room does not cut it!”

Decisions, decisions, decisions … Sister Ann chooses meal options “to go” for several of the sisters that she lives with, to minimize outside contact.

Now I can’t go into detail about all the things I’ve learned from volunteering as a food server, so I’ve selected telling you about sisters’ choices related to oatmeal and beverages.

Little did I know the variations of eating oatmeal! “Do you wish a large bowl or small? So, you want the oatmeal on top of the applesauce? But before that, you want raisins in the bowl too, correct? OK, sister, you want three prunes and then the oatmeal on top? Got it! Yes, I have the cinnamon shaker right here. You want three shakes, right? Oops, that was the last person … you want four shakes! Oh, you don’t want a bowl; you want your oatmeal on your plate. I understand. (Not really. Where does the milk come in?).”

And who knew serving beverages could be so challenging? We use a variety of mugs. Some sisters like a big mug (or even that big green mug over there) and some prefer a smaller one; some sisters like a light coffee cup as compared to a heavy one. Some want two cups; one for coffee and one for water. Tea drinkers understand and will accept a slightly stained mug; non-tea drinkers, not so much!

Our glasses are pretty much one size (whew, thank God for that!), but it’s the contents that vary. Consider good-old-common-ordinary-water. Requests include: “A glass with lots of ice.” “Three-fourths water, no ice. Oh, not that much; I have to carry it on my tray.” “Water, with just a little ice in mine, thanks.” “Please. I’d like a half glass of water and just a tad of orange juice in it.” “Make mine hot water only.” “I’d like two glasses, each one half-full, one hot and one cold.” “I’d like half hot water and half cold water.”
Once the choices are made, sisters make their way to one of four eating rooms, two to a table, or maybe three around the larger tables. Social distancing, you know.

So, there you have it. I would have no doubt learned more “lessons” in the weeks ahead, except that beginning April 24, all sisters living in Lourdes and Providence Halls began to have meals delivered to their rooms. This is an additional precaution as Indiana heads into its peak of coronavirus cases in May.

However, I’d like to conclude this tongue-in-cheek-article with two additional comments. The first one I heard on NPR recently. “Social distancing is a privilege and a luxury.” I had to really think about that …!

The second is to tell all our friends reading this blog that the Sisters of Providence pray that you and your loved ones are well and remain so. Please stay safe and be cautious.

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Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper

Sister Ann Casper, SP, retired as the executive director for Mission Advancement for the Sisters of Providence in 2018 and currently serves as minister of Providence Community Cemetery at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana. Sister Ann has ministered in various scholastic and administrative positions in Indiana and North Carolina. She also was a member of the Sisters of Providence leadership team, serving as General Secretary.

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  1. Avatar Nancy Roberts on April 26, 2020 at 7:58 am

    Loved your comments! Your sense of humor is refreshing!

  2. Avatar Maureen Abbott on April 26, 2020 at 9:48 am

    Amazingly, these stalwart servers just kept smiling at us picky tray folks. Who could know the hidden joys awaiting this brave enough to sign up for such a tedious task? We are ever so grateful!

  3. Avatar Sabrina S Falls on April 26, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    Delightful! Thank you, sister, for this moment of levity!

  4. Avatar Mary Tomlinson on April 26, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Ann. Did you ever know all these choices? I’d like a glass half ice, then a mixture of lemonade and cranberry. Actually with all that work you do, I’ll take whatever you give me. Your notes gave me a chuckle. Good luck with this new process.

  5. Avatar Leila Kalen Short on April 26, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    Your article made me think of my kids and grandkids when I fixed their breakfast… no one wanted the same thing. lol 😂

  6. Avatar S. Paula Damiano on April 26, 2020 at 10:22 pm

    Made me laugh today…. thanks

  7. Avatar Jo Ann Peters on April 27, 2020 at 2:43 pm

    Oh my! These were not the “lessons” I would have expected, but a little levity is much appreciated! Thanks so much for this humorous perspective!

  8. Avatar Karen Oddi on April 27, 2020 at 10:31 pm

    S. Ann,
    Glad to see you standing and obviously doing pretty well if you are delivering meals. Thanks for the peek into the life of the sisters at meals these days. To each her own little quirk.
    Be well and thanks…

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