VOICES OF DAVIDSON
A Piece of Bread
“Let us break bread together on this day,” lines from a popular hymn of my Presbyterian childhood.
After ordering a slice of pizza, I sat down at a small table at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul to wait for my flight. Two tables away sat a short, husky, elderly gentleman with a stubble beard, wearing a small woolen green stocking cap and a roughly woven anorak. I discreetly watched as he began to search through a series of plastic bags. He found his round slab of stone-oven baked Turkish bread, pulled it out and returned to the plastic bag search. From another bag he pulled out a couple of tomatoes and a cucumber. After gently pressing and smelling the tomatoes, he chose the one for his meal.
Then began another search for what I assumed must be a knife. Knowing that in today’s airports he was not going to find a knife, I decided to offer him the plastic one that came with my pizza. As I tried to get his attention with my offer, he found what he was looking for: a folded hand razor in his shaving bag. I suppose he noticed my movement and looked up to see that I was holding up my plastic knife.
We made eye contact and in a voice that seemed to pattern a question, he appeared to be asking if I spoke “Deutsch.” I shook my head no; I had been asked that before on my travels. He stood up, walked to my table, and graciously took my plastic knife. I suppose he said thank you and I replied with you’re welcome. As I began arranging my bags to leave, I looked up to see him once again standing at my table, a hunk of bread and a peeled cucumber in his hand. Of course, I took them and sat down again to eat this offering. I deliberately choose the word offering because since that time I have pondered what happened between the two of us. Two total strangers from completely different worlds and experiences broke bread together in a moment of communion that transcends all that we think we know.
Nancy M. Slagle
Nancy McAmis Slagle has lived in Davidson since 1980 and spent many years as a teacher of Spanish. After her retirement she continued her work as a consultant for an international education program.