“Cornie” starts her shift at 6 p.m. nightly in the building where I work. With quiet concern she empties our trash cans. When I’m there late we share a cup of coffee. I don’t speak a word of her language and she doesn’t speak a word of mine, but we communicate with gestures and expressions while we talk in our own languages. I show her photos of my husband and son and she makes the sign of the cross. But she has no photos to show me. Those of us who are there late say I look like a giant next to her when she hugs me around my waist. I am only five feet, four inches tall, but Cornie is about two feet shorter than I am, yet she almost knocks me over with her prolonged squeeze.
I could speculate about Cornie and what her life might be like, but she’s always humbly grateful for the coffee. I get to leave for the night but her night is just beginning. And, that’s an assumption, she might have been working all day for all I know. The coffee helps us both.
A few weeks before Christmas, I was sick. I pointed to my throat and whispered to Cornie that I couldn’t talk. I gestured not to come too close as I didn’t want to get her sick. She gave me a grandmotherly look and said something with a sympathetic tone. For the first time, I didn’t get up to make the coffee.
Several minutes later she came back and handed me a carefully-wrapped paper towel bundle. I opened it and there were several mini candy canes. She pointed to the candy canes, then to her throat and gestured something that instructed me to suck on the candy canes to help me feel better.
Selfless gifts of kindness are the best. Happy Ephiphany!