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Catherine Zaw with a newspaper

Catherine Zaw, '15

A home for conversation

When I signed up to volunteer for a homeless women's shelter in the winter of 2013, I anticipated physical work moving mattresses and sleepless nights worrying about the safety of the shelter. What I didn't expect was the bonds I would form with some of the residents.

Annie had been a waitress in a traditional Italian restaurant before it was replaced by a fast food chain.

"I can name all the types of pasta," she told me. She drew pasta shapes on a scrap of napkin.

"The conchiglie is my favorite. It's like a conch shell. My grandmother used to make it all the time."

Annie taught me everything she knew after a lifetime working with pasta.

In turn, I told her about how the words macaroni, macaroon, and macaron have the same etymological heritage, but are completely different foods now. We traded knowledge and life experiences, and after a whole winter, I was sad to see our shelter time come to an end.

Annie wasn't the only woman with a story at the shelter. Each visitor came in with her own experience, and the lesson I took was that there is a story in everyone, everything—and that all of these stories are important.

Catherine Zaw, '15, majored in biology and linguistics.
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