A good day´s walk unspoiled

We are usually quiet as we set out each morning and the morning we left the Moratinos was no exception. I usually pray that we will walk with lighter heart and feet for that day. I was thinking about how much a sense of lack permeates so many aspects of our lives. We have a tendency to think that we must be in control, especially with regard to the time ahead of us. I guess that is one of the reasons why history is filled with wars. We are never satisfied with what we have. I was thinking about our pilgrimage and how we have always found a place to stay, warm water to wash the grime of the day off and food to fill our hungry stomachs. I look around me as I walk; I see trees in their winter color, birds going about what they usually do, the gray sky….. It seems to me that they all know exectly who they and what to do but we humans still don´t seem to get it. We tend to remain unsatisfied even in the midst of plenty. As we were approaching Bercianos about 7.5 kms from El Burgo Ranero, our destination for the day, we met a man riding a bycicle. He introduced himself as the hospitalero in El Burgo Ranero and told us the albergue will be opened at 2 p.m. We were thrilled to have met him and felt at ease now having confirmed that we will have a place to stay. The rest of the day´s walk went rather well with somewhat lightened feet! We arrived at the albergue around 3:30 p.m. but alas, I became concerned when we found out that there was no heat in the dormitory and it was cold! But I decided to accept it as a new experience and settled myself in to the cold room. In the evening,  after we finished dinner the hospitalero and I started to converse. He started with a comment about seeing us giving thanks before our meal. Then he told us about his over the top pilgrimage (4500 kms in one shot), how he lost three toenails over it, etc. Of course, I don´t speak Spanish and he did not speak English. So we used the Google Translator on my iPhone, word by word! It was hilarious! Nonetheless, we communicated and communicated very well. In the course of conversation, I found out he was 66 years old (and very fit to say the least!), retired, separated after 40 years of marriage with 21 family members and was now a volunteer hospitalero, a long away from his home in Barcelona. When I cautiously asked him the reasons for his separation, he said he was feeling, a general “lack of love, confidence, trust and hope,´´ both in his failing marriage and in life as he was experiencing it. He said that his pilgrimage has provided him a sense of truth that the only thing  in life he finds trust in is God. I asked him if that truth has given him the peace he wanted and if that peace might be communicated to the wife and family he left behind. No answer. He went on to say that he became disenchanted with the way his family views life, materialisticly and unable to ever find happiness (these are his words). He told me more about his wife and I could clearly see the unhappiness and even a hint of anger emerging in his face. I offered him a thought I have learned, and have been trying to practice over the last few years that we are only capable of feeling two things; love and fear. Everything we say and do comes from either the thought of love or fear. And even fear is a call for love. Peace does not come by filling our sense of lack for it only validates it. I sensed that he was uncomfortable accepting that he might be fearful. So I offered him a bible passage (somewhere in John but I don´t remember exactly where) when Jesus said about a thief who comes to steal and destroy. I offered to him the thought that the thief, perhaps, is the fear that steals and distroys our peace if we are not vigilent. I also offered to him that miracles (of forgiveness) are possible if we only allow ourselves to change our perceptions. And that might lead us closer to the deepest part of our hearts where the peace of God dwells. He fell silent for a while and he turned his face toward me with teary eyes and said ¨thank you for being here¨. We crawled out from our bed the next morning and set out for the day´s journey. Santiago, yes, that is his name, came and escorted us out to the path as it was foggy and the waymarks were hard to see. We exchanged kisses and hugs as we parted. I wispered to him Paz (peace). He smiled some more. J and I were quiet for a long time that morning. In that foggy and rainy morning I soon come to a realization that the conversation we had with Santiago was one offered to me by God who constantly offers His guidance and peace to those who seek it. I realized it was a holy moment when the awareness of ourselves transcends our self-imposed limits and allows God´s grace to fill our hearts. That morning I realized we were walking with lighter hearts and feet. The camino provides many such unexpected moments where grace for whatever reason settles upon us.

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