Our 5 minute walk each day to Friedenshaus takes us through a large parking lot. In the early days of January, when we began walking this daily path, we noticed there was often a lady all bundled standing by the parking pay station. She stood (and at times sat) on the cold ground hoping that people might toss a few extra coins into the little can she held. We typically passed at some distance, avoiding eye contact and would wonder aloud about how much money she actually received or how cold it must be to stand out there every day.
After a couple of weeks we found ourselves walking a little closer to the pay station one day and Karl looked at the woman and smiled. The smile that she returned was beautiful. And in this way our relationship began. We found ourselves purposely walking quite close to the pay station every day. Often we were greeted by the smile of this woman in the morning and again on our return home after our classes. There were days where this “meeting” happened four times as we made a couple of trips back and forth.
On some days we would drop a few coins in her little can. Other days we would share some extra flatbread, soup or cake and she would gladly accept our small gift. It was only when we came nearer that we noticed she had had a tracheotomy. A permanent tube in her windpipe which helps her breathe meant she could barely whisper a “danke.” As the days passed, the smiles we received each morning began to include a wave.
And then a few weeks ago, our friend was gone. A man stood in her usual spot. No smiles were offered. At first I thought this was likely just temporary – maybe our friend was sick. After a few days I began to wonder: “Was she okay?” “Had she moved to another place?” I missed her. After about two weeks we were walking on another street not so far away and there she was, holding her can. We were both excited to see her and began to search our pockets for change. Turns out we had no money along but that didn’t matter. Her big smile shone and she greeted us both with a handshake. We asked why she had left the parking lot and with a couple of strained words and numerous actions she explained that someone had kicked her “out.” We felt badly for her and wondered how “the man” could simply move her away.
Our friend has returned periodically to the parking lot, usually later in the day (when the other man has left). She stays late into the evening. Now, when we walk by, we come right to her and our greeting always includes a handshake. Unfortunately, we are unable to learn this special lady’s name. She whispered it, but we can’t really understand the Turkish name she is saying. And she is unable to write. Today I asked if I could take a picture together with her. We immediately had it developed and brought her a copy. She smiled, of course, and quickly asked if we also had a copy of the picture.
I am so grateful for this quiet relationship which has taught me the importance of seeing and acknowledging people, and has reminded me that beauty is gifted to us in many different ways. I know I will miss her and her smile when it is time to return to Winnipeg.
German Word(s) of the Week: “Ich mache niemals Voraussagen und werde das auch niemals tun.“ (Paul Gascoigne). “I don`t make predictions and I never will.“
I found a website this week that I thought was interesting. It included an activity called, “Learning German through soccer quotes.“ For you sports fans, you might know that athletes are not always the best public speakers. When interviewed, they may misspeak and offer some opportunities for a laugh. Sometimes it`s on purpose, but most often an accident. Famous baseball player Yogi Berra was well known for his one-liners. For example, “You can observe a lot by just watching.“
With this in mind, I decided to use these in class today. Marla warned me that the students don`t always share my sense of humour. I argued that it was all about learning German, not humour. As it turned out, Marla was right – again. You know what it`s like when you tell a joke and have to explain why it`s funny? Now try doing it in a foreign language! Needless to say, the phrase of the week needed about five minutes of explanation before they sort of understood the humour in it. And if you don`t get it – too bad!