Since 2001 Colin and I have walked a number of the ancient pilgrim trails in Europe leading to Santiago. They have been special times for us, due in part to the many kindnesses showered upon us. I am going to tell you about one day when three different people were kind to us.
The first one was as we were paying for our night’s accommodation. The French woman taking the money gave us 6 chocolates, saying, “These chocolates are to remember us by and to eat going up the first hill; and if you forget to eat them by the end of the day, you will also remember us!”
That time we were walking on a little frequented trail in France where there were few cafes to buy food and stop for rests. We had left the marked trail to go through a tiny village in the hope of there being a café for coffee. The church was open, and as we went in a man came towards us with his hand outstretched. He warmly shook our hands, then he offered us coffee and took us to the Presbytery. The coffee was instant in chipped cups, but the experience and welcome was wonderful. The priest, Pere Michel Lahet, had no English but we communicated through my French dictionary, gestures and his photograph book. He told us he had a special relationship with the gypsies, baptizing, confirming and marrying them when they came to his village every year or so. There was a wonderful photo of him looking like Moses with a long flowing robe and white beard surrounded by 30 to 40 gypsies at the altar of his church. He gave us this little print of a picture painted by the gypsies.
We walked on greatly exhilarated.
The walk for the remainder of the day was often through forests – very steep up and down and we arrived very hot at the chamber d’hote we had booked through the Tourist Info at the previous town. There was no village, just a home in the country. The lady of the house informed us she had been fully booked when she received our phoned booking on her answer phone. “I will think of something”.
Here another great kindness was shown to us. She brought us drinks and an apple and phoned her friend with a chamber d’hote up in the hills. Then she took us to her friend’s place, 15 or 16 km away, stopping for us to buy food for our evening meal on the way.
So often we have been given encouragement when the way seems long by these little kindnesses. It has been a real lesson to us that along the journey of life it is the little kindnesses to other people which are so important.
Pat and Colin