I spotted them ahead of me–easily identifiable by their hiking shoes, walking sticks, and the telltale scallop shell hanging from their backpacks. Pilgrims! I thought excitedly.
They paused, the man checking something on his phone, the two of them conferring over whatever was on the screen. This is my chance! I thought, picking up my pace.
I live in a town along one of Spain’s many pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela. So I’ve been waiting all winter for the pilgrims to return to the trail.
“Can I help you?” I asked them.
“Oh, no, we’re fine. We’re taking an alternate route today to avoid the big climb and just want to be sure we don’t miss it,” said the man.
“Where are you from?” I asked.
“The US,” they said. “And you?”
“I’m American, but I live here. Where in the US are you from?”
“Oh! I have a cousin who lives there.”
“Really? What’s her name? We might know her.”
I voiced her name into the air between us and watched as their faces scrunched in puzzlement.
“That name sounds very familiar,” the woman said.
“Really? Well, she has a little boy. . . . She’s an engineer.”
Neither of those clues helped. “We’ll figure it out, I’m sure,” the man said.
“Would you mind if I walked with you for a bit?” I asked.
“Not at all!” they said. “But I have to warn you,” the man said, “I’m the slowest walker on the Camino.”
“That’s okay. I’d rather walk slowly and talk with interesting people than get anywhere quickly.”
We walked along when the man asked, “Is your cousin Catholic?”
“Yes, she is,” I said, recalling her telling us recently that she had just started going back to church and was going to have her son baptized.
“That’s how we know her!” he said.
I stopped and looked back at him. “What church do you go to?” I asked.
When he told me the name, I recognized it immediately, remembering my cousin saying it as she told us about her experiences there a few weeks ago. “I’m a deacon there,” he said. “And my wife and I work with the baptism program at the church.”
“What a small world!” his wife said.
Indeed it was. Think of all the things that had to happen in order for our lives to intersect outside of this small town in northern Spain–a town most Americans have never heard of, let alone visited.
- I had to walk out my door at the exact right moment.
- They had to leave their hotel at another exact moment.
- I had to choose–from all the places I could do my morning walk– to walk the Camino de Santiago route out of my town.
- My cousin had to decide, after years of not being involved in the faith in which she was brought up, to go back to church.
- And who knows how many decisions this couple had made that brought them to Reno, Nevada and then to the Camino de Santiago’s northernmost route.
After fifteen minutes of walking and wonderful conversation, I had to turn around to go back into town. I had an appointment. Though I’ll confess I did have a moment of figuring out how I could cancel all of my plans for the next few hours so I could walk with them a little longer.
We shared our names with each other and took selfies together to share with my cousin.
“You’ll make it into a homily when I get back,” he told me as I walked away. A few minutes later I thought, “You’ll make it into my blog when I get back.”
One Comment Add yours
This was wonderful! I met the brother of an 8th grade classmate hitch hiking up the Alaska highway many years ago. Synchronicity is so much fun!