Last-minute meeting fulfills a dream

Published April 1, 2000

Kirsten Mercer bought a disposable camera to record her meeting with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

When asked, ?If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?? a typical young person might respond with the name of a rock musician or a movie star.

Not Kirsten Mercer, youth outreach co-ordinator for the Primate?s World Relief and Development Fund. Ms. Mercer, 23, has always dreamed of meeting Archbishop Desmond Tutu. ?I was a pretty political young person,? she says.

Ms. Mercer lived her dream in February when an aide to Archbishop Tutu left a message that the former primate of southern Africa would like to speak with her the next morning at his Toronto hotel. Ms. Mercer didn?t get her telephone message until the morning of the proposed meeting and had just 45 minutes to get there. She bought a disposable camera on the way to the hotel.

Ms. Mercer had written to Archbishop Tutu last October, telling him she was thinking about doing graduate work in restorative justice and was interested in his views. She wasn?t surprised when no response came, knowing it was a long shot. The phone call in Toronto came out of the blue.

Was she nervous during her allotted 15 minutes? ?Very,? admitted Ms. Mercer.

Archbishop Tutu suggested they pray first and he hugged her during the meeting. Her nervousness was short-lived as the archbishop shared his views on ways of responding to conflict. The meeting lasted longer than its allotted time as Archbishop Tutu spoke approvingly of her work with youth and of the Primate?s Fund.

?He?s so receptive, he?s so warm, you feel like you?re talking to someone you?ve known your whole life,? Ms. Mercer said.

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