When I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015 I spent eleven days alone on the Invierno route between Ponferrada and Santiago de Compostela. When I tell people that I didn’t see another Pilgrim during those eleven days, I’m sometimes asked if I was ever frightened or felt endangered. My response always includes one of several stories about the kindness of the local people I met along the way.
One day was especially hot and I walked for several hours without passing through any villages or seeing another person. I’d misjudged my water needs for the day and my bottle ran dry about an hour before the day’s destination.
I wandered into a small hamlet and, in search of a place to fill my water bottle, I walked past the yellow arrow indicating the direction of the Camino.
A man ran towards me pointing to the path and telling me that I had missed the turn. I nodded and gestured that I was looking for a place to purchase some water. He immediately led me to his home, invited me in, and filled my water bottle. Then he went into another room and returned with an ice cold orange soda which I eagerly accepted.
|The most refreshing orange soda ever
Back on the path I reflected on the interaction. I noted that he didn’t hesitate to take a strange woman into his house. He hadn’t stopped to wonder what people might think, or if I might be fearful of him; he saw a need and he responded with kindness. I thought about how different this might have been in the States and I knew that I wanted to live more openly, where kindness was the first impulse.
This past week a young woman knocked on our door just before sunset. I was in another room when she arrived but she told Sam that she was lost and had run out of water. Before I joined them, Sam invited her in and filled her water bottle. He asked where she was headed and it was unclear. She was planning to camp “somewhere.”
Sam’s paternal instincts were immediately triggered and he knew that she needed dinner and a safe place to sleep. My introverted side wondered how we would entertain her all evening, but I agreed with Sam, and thought of our own daughters and how we would want them to be treated in a similar situation. As we sat down to a pasta dinner we introduced ourselves and invited her to stay the night. She was visibly relieved by the offer.
The evening passed easily as she entertained us with stories of her various adventures. The next morning we fed her a good breakfast, supplied her with boiled eggs and energy bars for her hike and then walked with her to the trail that she wanted to take into Capileira.
|With our unexpected guest
I shared this story on Facebook because I thought it was a pleasant event. Sam and I have been astounded by the response.
This is the most “liked” thing that I have ever posted. Comments range from “What a great thing for me to read this morning,” to “Thank you for having kind souls,” to “She was lucky to knock on the right door.”
This last comment got me thinking. The thing is, I don’t think there is a “wrong door,” where we live. I believe that anyone on our mountain would have responded exactly the same way. We have noticed over and over again that the first impulse here is to assume the best of others and to respond kindly. We live among gentle souls and in turn are learning to live more gently.
But what has struck me more than anything is the clear indication that people are hungry for stories of kindness. We are living in a time when our leaders prey on victims and feed on the most hateful and fearful impulses of the people.
But my friends remind me that at our core we desire kindness and love. I truly believe that no act of kindness is ever wasted and it is always the correct choice.
Wishing you all peace during the holidays and in the year ahead.
Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
Franklin D Roosevelt
Franklin D Roosevelt