Joan of Bersjön

Lucinda Palme


You are the worst enemy to yourself if you are not outdoors in summer says Dr Appleby the founder of Swedish-Anglican Society.

“Excuse me, miss, can you help me,” I hesitantly asked a girl who was in the company another girl. They presented themselves like girls who lived in the same apartment or in the same neighbourhood, and were rushing for an outdoor game. Though they were different from each other in their colours there was a palpable bonhomie between them.  The sight of their spirit of friendship cheered me, prodded me to internalise: the world is a great place, step out.

“Sure,” she promptly responded releasing her arm locked in her friend’s arm.

“Looking for a group of people who are gathering somewhere here,” I elaborated, “but I’m not able to trace them.”

“What’s the address,” she asked.

I handed over my mobile phone to her so that she will read the SMS to herself. She looked at it, and quipped, “It doesn’t say much.”

The invitation was sent as a message to me by Dr Appleby: ‘U’re welcom to ur party at ftball pitch at Rymdtorget in Bersjön’.

Few meters away, on a mound, by a never-ending semi-circular apartment, there was a group of people. The smell of grill was all over the area. Two ladies were turning the meat and in deep conversation. Beside them in a tiny football pitch there were all ages of people, playing. I scanned at the group whether I could find Dr Appleby who invited me for ‘an outdoor party’.

“Let me put my things here, and I will be with you,” she said. “This is our gathering, all sorts, grill, play games and then, music,” and commanded, “let’s go.”

Rymdtorget in Bersjön is full of apartments but laced with open areas of grass and plants, and spots for gatherings. I tried to locate the outdoor party of Dr Appleby but I miserably failed.

“What gathering is that,” she asked.

“I don’t know, Dr Appleby invites me often for his activities,” I said.

“Is he a Christian?”


“Are you a Christian?”

“No,” I said, “what is your name, miss?”


“Thank you, Joan. You have been kind to help me.”

“That’s all right. I’m Christian. I think, the messenger, your friend who has invited you, probably … I know where they gather.”

We walked past apartment after apartment, and as we were about to reach an open-air girded by railtrack for the tramway and woods we saw gatherings of different groups. I said, “Mini world is here, Joan?”

“You find all types,” she said.

“From all the countries in the world, you mean?”

“Not exactly, where do you come from?”



“What about you?”

“Kenya,” she said, and looked at me for I looked perplexed as I had noticed a guy walked out from the gatherers with a phone, and he was clad in a garment exactly that resembled to a clan in the USA.

“Klu Klux Klan, here?” I said, “only the robes are blue.”

“Not exactly like that. He is a black Muslim. They were ethnic garments here …” Joan said. “You will find more people like you never see in the city. It is their cultural celebration.”

“Is there a festival going on here?”

“You know, people don’t gather regularly in Sweden. But blacks and Muslims gather like some Christians, too,” she said. “It’s good though.”

“Joan I can see Dr Appleby,” I said when I spotted him in a gathering, “please meet him, Joan. You are a Samaritan.”

She smiled. “It is a small thing.”

“You’re a Samaritan.”

“One comes across Samaria in the Bible. But what you read and hear about the present Samaria is different.”

“I meant in the Samaritan, sense, you know, one who is compassionate to a person in distress,” I said with all the honesty.

A person in the group of Dr Appleby came running towards us with all the happiness in the world. I wondered whom she was going to hug. She grabbed Joan, and hugged her tightly, and said, “Thank you, dear, what you did to my son, I can’t tell. He has changed now.”

“You are a Samaritan, Joan…!”

“I tell myself to be useful, and purposeful, to myself and others,” Joan remarked.

Useful, purposeful…lingered in my mind for the rest of my life.

—Lucinda Palme