The simple word “um” (pronounced “oom”) sparked a friendship in the St. Anthony Dining Room that bridged an ancient tradition with the hope of a new generation. Dining Room guest Mut had struggled to find a safe place to land in the Tenderloin. His limited grasp of English, along with the hustle and bustle of the streets in the Tenderloin, left him alone and panicky about finding his way. That is until the day he met Rath, a member of our Client Safety Services team. Rath recognized his signals of distress and approached Mut with one simple syllable um.
Um is a way of communicating respect to an elder in Cambodian, directly translated as Uncle. Rath feels a special sense of pride when it comes to this friendship and said, “Mut feels safe knowing I am around. He feels comfort here and now shares a meal with us daily. Before this, he was in search of food everywhere.” There are twenty-two languages spoken in the Tenderloin, a long-standing launch pad for recent immigrants to San Francisco. St. Anthony’s Dining Room remains one of the places many immigrants turn to as they begin a new life.
Like so many people who have come before, and countless people who will come after, the St. Anthony Dining Room serves up more than food. It is a place where friendships are made and worlds come together.