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Friday, 06 February 2009

This Scottish Life - Page 3

Written by Emilie B. Haertsch
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The first time I met John he yelled in my face. It was the night I began volunteering at St. Catherine’s, and I was nervous. I stood outside the convent soup kitchen, unsure, but the waiting homeless men seemed to know what to do, and one of them rang the doorbell for me.


From the beginning, John singled me out, sensing my discomfort. The nuns and other volunteers seemed to love him, but I feared him. His tone with me evolved from disgruntled to mocking. Although I couldn’t comprehend most of what he said, I could understand that the twinkle in his magnified eye was at my expense.


As the weeks went on, however, I began to understand John’s speech a bit better and my perception of him changed. He often asked me about the way I did things at “hoom.” When he laughed at my answers I understood that his gruffness only masked his teasing nature.


When John asked me how my Christmas was, I responded, “Wonderful! This year my family had a pomegranate-themed Christmas party.”


John was incredulous.


“Eh Pumegrennit Kresmes?” He guffawed, and proceeded to inform the other volunteers.


John began demanding a hug before I left every evening, and our relationship became comforting. He told me that he understood that I was far from my home and family, but he didn’t want me to ever feel that I was alone. He insisted that I take home extra food – mostly chocolates and cookies – from the soup kitchen because he worried that my budget didn’t allow me enough grocery money. If I was ever in trouble I was to know that I could go to him.


He said to me, “Tell yuh Mum an’ Da tha’ yee hae’ friends heayuh.”


As the year progressed, spring came and finals drew near. I became buried in my studies and had fewer opportunities to go to St. Catherine’s. The less time I spent at the soup kitchen the guiltier and more embarrassed I felt about returning. I was afraid that John would think me ungrateful after all his kindness. I thought he would bark at me again like he had when I first met him.


By Easter, it had been several weeks since I had visited St. Catherine’s. My friends and flatmates had gone home for the holiday. Away from the festivities of my family in America, I was to spend this Easter entirely alone. Despite my efforts at pluckiness, I was depressed.


To make matters worse, the University Easter mass was being held in St. Catherine’s chapel. There I would surely see John, whom I had been avoiding for weeks. My spirits sunk even further at the thought of his disappointment in me.


Still, I was resolved to attend Easter mass. As I walked to the convent I attempted to talk myself down.


I’ll dart in the door, I thought, and straight to my pew. I probably won’t see John at all.


Emboldened, I marched across the courtyard of St. Catherine’s and through the open door. I walked confidently down the hallway – and straight into John.


(Page 3 of 4)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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