Port chaplain Reverend Danie Taljard from Port Elizabeth recounts a touching tale of a seafarers’ longing for his family, and the little act of kindness that helped to relieve his mood. Danie works for ICMA member the Christian Seaman’s Organisation (CSO).
At the earthen quay everything is covered in a thick black dust. Spend only a morning here, and you blend in with the environment. That black dust gets in everywhere – it has a way of getting into your heart. There is nothing of beauty here. The depressive industrial scene darkens your mood.
Noel is from the Philippines and he talks to Danie in the ship’s dining room. It is Noel who relates the black quay to how he feels. His contract started only recently, but he already knows that nine months from home is a lifetime alone. When saying goodbye, he, his wife and his children were in tears, but he chooses not to remember that. It is the memory of that last laugh that gets him through the lonely months until he sees them again: the last time they shared a happy moment and laughed together.
Noel must go, his shift starts in a few minutes. ‘Here is something small for you, ’ Danie says, giving Noel a colourful knitted beanie and a scarf. It is not enough to say that Noel is overwhelmed. The small gift leaves him emotional and he wears it immediately. He assures Danie that this gesture gave colour to his day and is of immense value to him. Noel reads the letter that came with the woolly hat and scarf, written by the lady in Somerset East who knitted them. Suddenly, the black quay of Port Elizabeth does not seem quite as dark and and dreary . . .
A 71-year old lady who knitted the scarf and beanie, like many of the CSO’s donors, regularly knits for seafarers who visit Port Elizabeth. She probably does not know it, but her colourful beanie and scarf made that bleak quay a better place that day. It gave colour to that quay, and lifted a man’s spirit.