Rain pelts her legs and the wind tears at her umbrella as she waits for her daughter outside the Cathedral. She can hear music drifting out from the massive building, blending with the noise of the wind and traffic and cable car bells. Even though the day is cold, she is hot. She loosens her scarf and collar to let some personal steam escape. Turning 50 isn’t for sissies. Her mother referred to this condition as a “personal weather system”. Once again, Mom was right on the money.
She wants to shriek and tear off her coat. Instead she clatters inside the church, drops her umbrella and purse, unzips her coat and lets it drop to the floor. Leaning back against the cool concrete wall she fans her flushed face with a brochure she picked up from a nearby table. A boys choir is rehearsing somewhere nearby down the hall. Her phone rings and she snatches up her purse to rummage through the mess inside looking for the phone before it stops ringing. It’s her daughter. She is always late.
“Beth, where are you? Minnie says, a bit more loudly then she intended. “I’ve been waiting outside for 15 minutes! Are you OK?”
A man with a white collar pokes his head around the corner. He starts towards her.
“Beth, Beth, hold on. Just hold on.”
“Hello”, says the man, who is very good looking in his all black minister shirt and black slacks. Under a crop of curly brown hair his blue eyes hold her own in a steady friendly gaze. Minnie realizes how she must look; her purse, umbrella and coat flung on the floor, her hair wet and wind blown.
“Is there something I can do to help?” he smiles.
“Beth, please hold on just another minute.”
“Hi”, says Minnie, holding her hand over the mouthpiece of her phone. “Thank you no, I’m just fine. Just waiting for my daughter, and I got caught in the rain.” His face is sweet, and so young.
“Would you like a cup of hot tea? My office is just down the hall. ” Minnie gapes into this good Samaritan’s deep blue eyes and finds herself nodding her head, even though she is still warm.
“Beth! Did you say you haven’t left the house yet?” Minnie watches as her saviour gathers up her umbrella and coat, and motions for her to follow him.
“OK, Beth. You drive carefully, and I will wait for you here at the Cathedral. Just call me when you get here.”
Minnie folds her phone, and trails after her helpful God-send.
Inside his office are two walls lined with books. A large double-sided desk that looks old with two chairs each facing the other sits in the middle of the room, and against one wall are a couple of upholstered well-worn wing chairs. Behind the desk rain beats on the window looking out to California Street, and cold wet people hurry past, bent into the wind. Her coat and umbrella are hanging on a hook by the door, and he is pouring steaming hot water from an electric kettle into a dark blue ceramic mug.
“I hope Irish Breakfast is OK?” he asks, motioning her into the desk chair facing the window. He sets the steaming mug on the desk in front of the chair. Minnie takes a seat, and the very nice minister walks around the desk to sit opposite her. He picks up a mug that must have been there before he came out to the hall to find her.
“Bloody awful day out.” He says, in what she recognizes as a British accent.
“Yes. If I could have I would have stayed home.” says Minnie. “But my daughter is getting married in a month, and we have lots to do.”
“Oh, well, what a happy occasion to get drenched for. By the way, I am James Gilbey.” He reaches across the desk to offer his hand, partially rising from his chair to reach Minnie’s hand. Her hand is enveloped by his, and he briefly places his other hand over hers. “Your hand is quite warm!” he says.
“Minnie Calloway,” she said, thinking of her favorite beverage and taking her hand back. “Thank you so much for the tea and warmth. I am sorry I disturbed you from whatever you were doing.”
“No need to apologize! I was in between tasks and having a bit of a tea break of my own.”
“What do you do here at the Cathedral?” Minnie asks.
“Oh, a little bit of everything. The occasional Memorial, and one or two regular services during the week. I assist at Sunday Mass. But then, we all do that.”
Minnie cups the hot mug in her hands, warming up, and breathes in the steamy vapors. Just five minutes ago she was much too hot to consider tea, but thankfully that wave has passed.
“But my pet project here at Grace is organizing the Food Pantry and Free Hot Lunch program. In fact, I need to head on over to the kitchen soon to see how everyone is getting along with today’s lunch.” Minnie starts to rise from her chair.
“No, no, finish your tea. I have a few minutes. Perhaps you’d like to come with me to see what we do?”
“Oh.” Minnie checks her watch. “I don’t know.”
“It’s not at all far. I won’t take but five minutes of your time.”
“All right then, I would like to see what you are doing here. It sounds wonderful. But I’ll need to run when my daughter calls.”
“Good.” James beams at her and sips his tea.
Minnie smiles back at him and settles into the chair, relaxing in this gentle man’s company, saying a little prayer of thanksgiving.