Twenty years ago, I spent eight very long, very challenging, months in Newfoundland. Ever since then, every time someone commented about the friendliness of Newfoundlanders, I inwardly winced because of that experience. Despite one of my best friends from theological school being a ‘Newf,’ I found it difficult to reconcile what everyone told me about Newfoundlanders and my own lived experience. While I did experience friendliness and kindness from individuals during that eight months, it was overshadowed by a internship ministry experience that was, shall we say, less than optimal!
Fast forward 20 years, my husband and I decided to vacation on the west coast of Newfoundland. We are staying in Rocky Harbour, one of the small communities in the heart of Gros Morne National Park and I finally understand what people have been telling me. From the waitress in Port aux Basque that first morning right off the overnight ferry crossing when I asked for whole wheat bread who looked at me said, “We’ve got fresh white just out of the oven” to the boat tour operators who offer both interesting and lively commentary. From the woman in a small cafe in the middle of nowhere when I asked for whole wheat bread (again!) who said, “We’ve got some, but nobody ever asks for it, and it’s about two weeks old!” to the people who shared our table at a comedy show, we have been met with laid back friendliness, good humour, and just the right amount of curiosity about who we are and what we are about. Now, I realize that almost all of these people are dependent on tourist dollars and after the last couple of years are likely especially glad to have tourists back! But nothing about their manner felt forced or artificial. I didn’t come to Newfoundland with any intention except exploring the very different geography this province offers, but somehow, through the various encounters this past week, the small wound that my heart was still carrying, that I didn’t realize I was still carrying, has been healed.
That’s my window on God’s world.