"The way you are sitting looks great. You have a very upright posture!"
HOW did she react?
"Oh really? Thank you! I haven't heard that before. Yeah, you're right.. I try to sit upright. I think it comes from reminding others- I am a doctor."
HOW did I feel?
Editha is my new role model. If I am 74 and have just returned from 40 years of building schools in Ghana i will give myself a pat on the back. Two if I am cool moving back to Germany and caring for my older friends (her fellow nuns) after that experience. Three if I'm waiting for a bus for two hours in some small town, hanging out at a coffeeshop, drinking coffee and just- sitting, watching. Relaxing.
if I email my friends from all over the world, if my smile is as honest, if my mind works as bright as hers and my heart is as open and if I know how to say "Ha joo" in that cute way she does- I will be one proud lady.
Editha might be, I don't know. Proud is not the first word coming to mind. Rather pensive. Wise. Good listener. And open.
I spent a whole hour with her at the station. Having missed my train I went to the shop for a coffee. There she sat. 2 minutes later what was about to become the best conversation in the last week started with her eyes gazing at my space pants in slight irritation.
I'd noticed her before and took the challenge. I complimented her.
A few moments after that I learned about her profession and her Africa years.
And off we went. We talked about Ghana of course. The liveliness and how every church service there was a party. How she learned that in terms of aid you mustn't fix things for people- but let them come to you, have open arms. Let them prove they mean it, want a change (such as a school building). Help them brainstorm. Step back again and wait for them to do some work. Finally invest money, very late in the game. This way the building will persist. Otherwise it's not very likely to.
With any human you want to help- no matter if they are underprivileged people in need of a school, patients you treat or your very own kids (or anyone really) - let them know about the beauty and potential you see in them. Give them space to grow. Believe in them and their abilities. Be patient with them developing their own ideas rather than you putting yours into action for them to see a faster result. It's worth it in the long run. We talked about the Sinti and Roma in Europe, about mediation, meditation and love. -- And boundaries.
She made it very clear that no change is made through empathy and love only. But that boundaries are the second key to making the world a better place. A statement I kept thinking about long after we'd said goodbye.
Sitting there I thought of my grandparents and other elderly people I know.
I have never seen a single senior as driven and clear and idealist as her.
I hope she caught her bus and will never stop making changes and resting in herself.
And that her god will keep her safe and sound.