When queried about his Christmas wish in 2014, Sam (a longtime guitar player) asked for a ukelele. If that seems like an awfully silly little instrument for such a big man, that is exactly the point. Sam loved to be silly. He loved to tote that little thing along and take his music everywhere he went. Sam, strumming “Somewhere over the Rainbow”, is a favorite memory of many of his friends. I don’t have a photo of him with the uke, so if any pals have it, please send it along. .
The gift of Sam’s music made me think about the many gifts the Camino provides. Yesterday, I was walking along in a village when I came upon a table next to the sidewalk. As I stopped to take look, an old man came running out from his garden. He pressed two crackers and some candy into my hands and then pulled out his card. It had his name, phone number, and said “I am a pilgrim. Please call me if you need help.” Maybe I should get some of those cards printed.
Today, after yesterday’s soul-crushing 22 mile roadside walk, I decided to take the Alternative Route, well away from the auto route. I know I promised my friends not to do that alone, but I saw many other Pilgrims making that turn and thought it seemed ok. And it was.
I joined a happy stream of people and walked through miles of beautiful farmland. Eventually, I came upon Dave’s Place, a cool hippy relaxation spot in the middle of nowhere. Suddenly, there were hammocks, stuffed animals, platters of fresh fruit and many other treats. Dave, with his ponytail and bare feet, was running around, slicing watermelon and wishing everyone well. Everyone was smiling.
A man came in, looking puzzled, and said, how much? Dave said, zero, everything is free! The man still appeared puzzled. Then Dave said “ When you understand life, you will know that the best thing you can do is to give things away.”
In my final gift story of the day, in a small town, I spotted an open store. That was unexpected, as today was Sunday. Needing some footcare products, I went in. On the Camino, the footcare section is always front and center. As I entered the store, the owner came out from behind the counter and pressed a small apple into my hands, saying “for you, a gift”. That has never happened before in my life.
Put together, I honestly cannot recall a similar period in my life where I have received so much kindness from random strangers. The Camino is a wonderful place to see the human potential. The best that we can be.
Dinner tonight was the Cocina Margarato, a mix of pigs ears and other unmentionables at an international table for 4: Canada, US, Hong Kong and Japan. Wow.