A View from St Kilda – February 2023

Last year, we had the privilege of having Rachel Kail staying at the Manse. Rachel had come over from the good old U.S.A, from Kansas, Missouri, to be exact.

Rachel had been with us before, sharing her wide knowledge of Dementia for the benefit of Crossreach, the social arm of the Church of Scotland. In the past, at one of our previous churches, Rachel, along with her mother, had run a course for those who supported those living with dementia.

Once the jet lag had passed, Rachel spent time with us when she had a moment: sometimes for a meal, sometimes for a game of cards, and she attended Naseby for morning worship too. Pamela also took Rachel to Edinburgh and stood in that very long queue to pay respects to the late Queen Elizabeth, Pamela fairing better than Rachel who was about to wilt after such a lengthy time. We had fun with the difference in the usage of the English language, bringing back memories for me of a Children’s Focus time in the Kirk, led superbly by Karen Anderson, on these very differences.

Rachel said sidewalk: we said pavement.
Rachel said hood: we said bonnet.
Rachel said route but pronounced it ‘rowt’!
… and when she said ‘I am away to change my pants!!’ John Luca
said, ‘Too much information!’

Languages, words, and their meanings can be quite amusing. I came across a story of a youngster, originally from Canada, who came to England to stay with his grandparents. One day, it was just the child and the grandmother at home and the child asked his grandmother to go to the ‘teeter totter.’ The grandmother had no idea what he meant and was getting more and more frustrated.

Then, instead of getting impatient, she took his hand, wiped away his tears and asked him to show where it was, which he did. All smiles and peace reigned once more.
Any idea what it meant?
Speak to Amanda Heather and she’ll give you a clue!
Seemingly, it is what Canadians call a seesaw.

I would never have guessed, but you can understand the logic of it if you think about it. What was nice about the story was the patience of the grandmother. She took time. She listened. Miscommunication was overcome and a child was happy again.

I had the privilege of leading Alan Mathieson’s funeral on Monday 16th January. Alan led a very full life, but we only knew him through Heart for Art, the creative group that helps and supports those living with dementia. You don’t, however, need to have dementia to discover that you are not being understood. It can be difficult for the best of us to articulate clearly what we mean and, even more so, our deepest longings and feelings.

Healing and wholeness come with patience and what counsellors might call ‘active listening’ which is hard work, trying to really understand what people are trying to communicate.

I think of Rachel, a friend of our family, who brought joy and laughter to the manse.

I think of Alan, a good communicator throughout his life but discovering that words failed but also that he could express himself through canvas and colour.

Listening is a skill, as we ‘teeter totter’ back and for-ward spiritually, trying to find common ground and to being understood.

God understands our longings, with words and without them.

Your friend and minister,