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The Camino brings out the best in us


Year of past OR future Camino
I can’t remember which day it was in June 2017 that we came to that part of the Camino Frances where there is a tall wooden cross and at the foot of the cross a pyramid of stones.

It was a cold and foggy day. Pilgrims stop there to place a stone onto the pyramid. In the thin fog, from a distance, I could see them standing beneath the cross, heads bowed. As we got closer, I could hear that some were weeping. I realised that this was a communal memorial and that each stone represented a loved one lost, a father, a daughter, a son, a mother, a sister, a brother, a friend …... It was a place where you could grieve, privately and communally, without embarrassment. It was a solemn moment. I stood at the edge of the pyramid and looked up at the cross. I looked at my fellow pilgrims and I could feel their pain and sorrow and I wept a little too. People were taking photographs and I offered to take a photograph of a lone pilgrim who was holding a camera and looking about him for a photographer. He thanked me in the gentlest and kindest manner, telling me that he was remembering his father. In return he photographed me and my wife.

We saw that lone pilgrim along the way a couple of times after that. We greeted each other like brothers and sister and in quiet moments when I can reflect, I think of him as one of the most thoughtful, cultured and gentlest of men. I consider myself very lucky because on the Camino and in my life I have met people like that. We’ve not seen or heard from him since then, but I often think of him, Domingo, and of Edouard, whom we met on the Camino Portuguese last year in September, among many other special and exceptional people. I think of them and many others whom we met during our hikes across two countries. They epitomise for me what the Camino is all about; an opportunity to live and be the very best of who we really are, as Jesus Christ must have done, I guess.

We all suffer so much loss and injury in our lives and that can make us fearful and suspicious, sometimes withdrawn and hesitant. The Camino gives us the time and the space to shed that heavy crust of fear and to be who we really are, no bull dust, no rubbish. What a great experience that is. It’s enough to make you something. In someone. And what a privilege it is to know that!
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