Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Dignity, Options, and James

St. James of Bristol

A saint stopped here last night. His name was James, he walked here from Bristol, England. He was ill and ragged and really religious.
James has no money, no job, but lots of time and tons of zeal.

James writes each day in a little pocket diary, in teeny, tiny letters. He is writing a book, he says, and this is the book, right here. He says he doesn´t need much, long as he can write. I can dig it.
The Gospel of James

James appeared at the end of a long and costly month. I had a health problem, Paddy lost a good old friend to cancer. We paid taxes and lawyer bills and insurance premiums, we took a long weekend in the mountains to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. We had enough resources to cover it all. There are different kinds of "cost," and lots of different ways to pay them.  

During our anniversary spa holiday I lay up to my neck in swirling hot spring water in a garden of Japanese maples. The magnesium prickled the skin on my legs. A fine drizzle prickled the skin on my upturned face, and I thought about what all this must cost. I thought of the people whose faces were being peppered with the same rain because they were sleeping out in the open, and I saw the only difference between us was money. I have some  money, so I have options. I can lay down on the park bench, too. And I can also relax at home, or in a hotel, or once in a while, in a whirlpool under a maple tree.

I am not just talking about millionaires. Buy an airline ticket. You can pay more and get a seat that lets you lie down. That money buys you, essentially, a few inches of leg-room, a few hours of sleep. The poor folks in coach are packed in like red-eyed sardines.

Likewise, the guy with little money can eat fast food, or make his own lunch, or go hungry. The guy with a fat wallet can choose those any of those things, and a zillion more.

The Gospel reading a couple of weeks ago talked about the rich man who had a dozen lambs, and the poor man next door who had one, a beloved pet. And when an important visitor came to visit the rich guy, did he kill one of his flock for a fine dinner? No. He took the poor man´s lamb and slaughtered it. The rich guy had all those options, and he opted to take away the only one his poor neighbor had.
(I think this is a perfect illustration of why well-off pilgrims should pay for their rooms, rather than take up spaces in the dwindling number of donation-only albergues and refuges. They are slumming, stealing the only option meant for truly poor pilgrims, putting the poor into the street. Jesus does not like that.)

Here at the Peaceable we see a lot of Divine Providence, even though we are not poor. Providence sends us people like James, people in a jam, poor people who are stripped of their dignity and out of options. If they are not drunk or crazy or obnoxious (we have options, see) we slip them into the household routine -- We do these things anyway, and another person or two makes little difference to our little economy or rhythm. Like everybody else in the world, James likes to sit in a soft chair and hear some good music. He deserves a nice glass of wine, a cloth napkin, a table properly set.

Entertainment options abound, if you´re lucky
When you put his clothes in the washer and give him a bed with clean sheets and blankets to sleep in, when you show him a little dignity, he feels like a wealthy man. He is refreshed and restored.

We have options. We can choose. Compared to most of this world, we are wealthy people, and we owe it in part to the Jameses. When they leave here, I always ask them to pray for us. They continue down the trail to Santiago, and while they walk, consciously or not, they pray. Superstitious as that might sound, I think pilgrim prayers are powerful. Pilgrim prayers keep the divine providence flowing into the Peaceable. They keep our options open. They make our "unique lifestyle" a viable one.

And they give me things to contemplate, and stories to write. And long as I can write, I am alright.   

On holiday: Paddy encounters the natives
NOTE: I realize this post is not the most coherant thing I have ever written. I am trying to distill what we do into a "mission statement," and this is one of several attempts. Hopefully clarity will break through all the fuzzy thinking and Gospel readings one of these days... Meantime, enjoy a few random pictures of summertime.

Bella, in the garden
holiday: walking the Ruta de Cares in the Picos de Europa


Ingrid said...

Reb, the box on being, your rambling from the heart makes more sense then any 'coherent by the book' sentence structure or thought. This article makes my heart smile. I have been getting annoyed with some of the 'pilgrims' on the various forums and have opted out on some - to keep my pilgrim serenity. Love the pictures and love to read your stories. Ultreia my friend, Light and Love Ingrid
P.S. may I at times post your blog in my group Camino Gifts of Friendship? said...

Ingrid, of course you can! Links are even nicer, because the hit count raises my profile on Blogger/Google. Not that anyone notices...

Glad I can make your heart smile. I fear I sometimes have less than pleasing effects on other bodily organs.

Peter said...

As someone who's been there, stayed at the Peaceable, (though, not on the real, camino-walking trip, but that's another story), I can attest: you've got a welcoming place, full of life, yet quiet, positive, a steady, caring humanity there. You also give people mental space to rest- an uncommon, and under-appreciated quality these days. I've slept the best sleep there, and felt your connection to the pilgrims and the very special geography there. You've created and maintain what the Jameses of the world need, and deserve.
So, in the spirit of your somewhat apprehensive religiousness, God bless!

Rachael said...

Do you feel the same about wealthy pilgrims who stay at donativos and make a fair donation? Are there so few spaces that anyone who can afford a pension should take it (in your experienced opinion?)

Anonymous said...

Rachael: This is Reb's husband here. You make a very good point. I have been in that situation myself. I suppose what a 'rich' pilg like me might do is check in to the Alberge, and tell the Hospitalero that, if the joint fills up, you are prepared to move over to the hotel across the street. But this seldom will happen, in practice I reckon.
So just stay and leave an unfairly big tip.

Anonymous said...

peace-en-able-ing kingdom...yes!

love, k

Perry said...

Hello Rebekah,

I was prompted to find the Gospel that would inform me about what happened to the middle eastern rich man who stole his poor neighbour's pet lamb.

I was surprised to discover that that this parable harks back to
David and God (Nathan) (2 Samuel Chapter 12) in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) wherein David impregnates Bathsheba & has her husband Uriah the Hittite killed by Joab. Not a nice man.

And he brought forth the people that were therein, and put them under saws, and under harrows of iron, and under axes of iron, and made them pass through the brickkiln: and thus did he unto all the cities of the children of Ammon. So David and all the people returned unto Jerusalem.

I'm not sure that Jesus had an opinion about well-off pilgrims taking spaces in the dwindling number of donation-only albergues and refuges, but he did not take kindly to money lenders Herod's rebuild of King Solomon's Temple.

Which is why the decision by the Protestant Archbishop of Canterbury to compete with payday lender Wonga is so infra dig.

The best part is that the Church of England has £75000 invested in shares in Wonga‽

Such is life!


Perry said...

Perry, thanks for your input. I know Jesus wasn´t around for the camino thing, (or payday lenders, or the Anglican church) but I still firmly believe he doesn´t like tourists taking up low-cost resources intended for poor people. Just because he is just. said...

Perry, thanks for your input. I know Jesus wasn´t around for the camino thing, (or payday lenders, or the Anglican church) but I still firmly believe he doesn´t like tourists taking up low-cost resources intended for poor people. Just because he is just.

tio tel said...

Thank you Reb. A far better Sermon than many that I have preached!

Terry (aka Tio Tel)

Heidi said...

Thank you for sharing your life with us this way. I love thinking that the Peaceable Kingdom is there, and hope we will meet again some day.

Also, could you tell Paddy that I miss his blog? I would have to have a Google identity to be allowed to post any comments, but I do read it!

David M Bruce said...

Hi Rebrites,
Great to see your blog, if not very reassuring for Dad of James! The first photo we've seen of him in months. I've heard from him since and thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping him out when he arrived at a fairly low ebb by the sounds of it. His blog is and he mentions your hospitality especially - I will suggest he includes a 'link' to you

Christal said...

This is fantastic!