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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Now that is an example

The photo above is of Ave Fenix. Below is a great story of pilgrim hospitality which was recently publish in an American newspaper.

Salvation in Spain

A blizzard of apple blossoms whirled around me, the sun warmed the dew away, a solitary cow munched away beside me and I started to cry. An hour earlier I had checked my bank balance: 14 cents. Three euros in my pocket, and 14 cents in my account. I had no credit card and it was the Saturday before a public holiday in the United States so it would be three days until frantic phone calls to family stateside would lead to money in my bank.

I was a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago in Bierzo, in northern Spain. I’d been walking the ancient path for three weeks, frugally spending along the way, but a series of travel mishaps had seriously compromised my financial situation. I had $1,000 worth of technology and hiking equipment, yet no money for anything more than a few apples, yogurt and bread.

Then Sharon appeared, a Canadian pilgrim with whom I’d walked a few days earlier. She looked at me, dropped her pack, and asked what was wrong. I fessed up to my embarrassing situation and she handed me 20 euros. “Don’t even think about paying me back,” she called out as she walked down the road.

Twenty euros! That would be several days of food. And I could always volunteer to clean the bathrooms at the pilgrim hostels along the way in exchange for a bunk. I stood up and started down the Camino, feeling cautiously hopeful.

After several hours of walking, I arrived at Villafranca del Bierzo, a town nestled in a deep valley surrounded by vineyards. The pilgrims’ hostel, Phoenix, was constructed on the same ground that held a hostel for pilgrims when the pilgrimage was in its heyday, around A.D. 1000. I ventured up to the old man with calming blue eyes and a soulful presence that told me he belonged there. I gushed my story, explaining that I had only 20 euros to last me for three days, and if I could possibly stay and do chores instead of pay?

He smiled at me, took me in his arms, and said, in Spanish, “Daughter, you don’t need to pay to stay in your own home.”

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