Humans are funny. We are often on our guard. Trained from childhood to be suspicious. ‘Never take candy from a stranger’. We are told this very early by our mothers. Our wariness extends in to adulthood.
You would be surprised at the number of people we have had at The Happy Camper pop-up Albergue Campground on the Camino (rolls off the tongue, right?) who are disconcerted by the free place to stay, and the complimentary wine and olives.
‘It’s free?!’ Wide eyed Pilgrim.
When I say yes, they ask if I mean donativo (give what you can).
‘No.’ I tell them. ‘We just want to help. Would you like a glass of wine, or a beer? After you settle in?’
Many people are speechless. Jeff checked in a German cyclist a couple of days ago. He looked so hot and sweaty. I went out and offered to wash his cycling gear, so it would be clean and dry for the following day. He just stopped and stared at me.
‘You are very kind.’ He was frowning as he said it. ‘Why are you doing this?’ As though he was uncomfortable being extended free assistance for no apparent reason. We must have an agenda.
‘You’re hot and tired.’I told him. ‘I wouldn’t want to wear the same gear tomorrow unless I could wash them.’
Still, he seemed mystified at the offer.
We have people from all over the world coming to stay. I think the individual tents might feel safer than an Albergue.
Last evening, as the sun was going down, we had these two knock on the door quite late. They are French and met on the way. In stereotypical French fashion, they brought their own bread and cheese. I supplied the wine and olives. And an ash tray.
Like so many, they needed to get away after the stress of the pandemic. To clear their minds and have a spiritual experience of self discovery. And from their stories, they have each achieved their goal. Knowing they will finish in Santiago in three days time brought tears to their eyes.
‘Tomorrow, I will be walking slower, and try to make it last longer.’ Said Clemence
Jeff made them café con leche’s this morning, and I found this note under their coffee cups as they walked out the gate.
It was such a lovely gesture. So far, putting out the tents and welcoming the weary has been a wonderful experience. But I wish, as humans, we were more comfortable in accepting help when it is extended to us, without looking for a hidden agenda.
Our French Pilgrims messaged their friends in Portomarin this morning, who are two days behind them. I have a feeling more French Peregrinos will be coming our way. Time to restock the olives, and the wine at €1.50 a bottle. And clean out the ash trays.