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