To say it has been miserably hot here doesn’t cover it. In the sun right now the temperature gauge reads 54! I have remained closed for the past two days, and yet, have never been busier.
We set up a table at the gate to give out free water to any and all passersby. Police on horses, construction workers, the bread man, random neighbors walking. And yes, Pilgrims. By the hundreds. Luckily, the garbage pick up happened yesterday. After I exhausted the glasses from house and the food truck, I got out the tubes of to-go coffee cups. The garbage was over flowing. Even the garbage men were thankful for a cold drink.
Cracked that Nut
One water customer I was particularly excited about was a woman I see walk by every day of the year. For more than a year, I would wave but I only got an angry scowl in return. A month ago, when passing her in the car, I waved, again. Her chin came up, almost in perceptively. Jeff laughed, as I cheered my small hard fought victory. Persistence pays off. Always play the long game.
Then, yesterday my scowling walker was walking by during a lull in Pilgrims demanding cups of water and water bottle refills. I saw her coming. I was ready. Locked and loaded, I crossed the road and intercepted her, hot and sweaty walking home. And I offered her a real glass of ice water.
‘No, no, no.’ She tried to refuse. ‘I am not a Pilgrim. You see me every day.’ As if I had been dropped on my head as a child.
‘I know.’ I told her. ‘I know who you are.’ She walks the opposite direction as the Pilgrims. ‘But you are a human being. And it’s too hot. Take it.’ Then I waited. We were in a literal face off. Finally, her face cracked into a smile I did not know she possessed in that sea of wrinkles.
‘Vale, Si.’ She took the water from me and drank it down in one long pull. Then handed the glass back to me and continued on. Weaving in and out of approaching Pilgrim hoards. Leaving me on the hot pavement, smiling after her. Another victory. A minute went by before I heard ‘Gracias’ and was gifted with a backhanded wave as I tracked her hasty retreat.
No, Seriously, We Are Closed
I know I said we were closed. But, that hasn’t mattered to anyone. I am nearly sold out of gazpacho. And Iced coffees? Uf. A hoard of American college students showed up begging me for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Like their Moms made for them in kindergarten. Funny. And microwave popcorn. And iced coffees. I’ve made more money ‘closed’ than open. Perhaps its the exclusivity of a good PBnJ that drives the masses. 😉
We aren’t focused on the food truck this week. At all. It’s all about free water. People try to give me money for the water, but I refuse. Even for this non-Catholic, it’s the prayer cards that move me. One women tucked one from Malaga in my pocket as I was filling her water bottle. Another Pilgrim, a French woman hung back until others had left.
‘I pray you get everything you wish for in this life. All the things in your heart I can’t even imagine. May they all come to you.’ She had tears in her eyes, placing her hands together as if praying. Then she turned and continued on her journey.
Just like last year, these pitchers of water cost us nothing. Very little effort. But what we get back from doing so is like a magic that swirls and multiplies all around us. I don’t really understand how we have tapped into this energy, yet again.
All of this reminds me of why we started this thing in the first place. Helping Pilgrims last summer, which gave rise to this business idea. But it’s never the money that does it for me. It’s seeing that Pilgrim struggling, who is desperate for a helping hand, and it’s within our power to give it. And we are privileged to do so. People say to me all the time, you are living the dream. But it’s not the same dream they think it is. The beautiful house or the land. It’s not the Albergue on the Camino dream. The dream, for me, is this dream. Helping people at their most vulnerable. That’s my dream. But they are right – and I know just how lucky I am to be living it.