Last night I walked into my bunk room and a very nice lady from Australia named Pam (I changed the continent and the name to protect the innocent) was making up her bunk across from me.
I walked three steps into the room and noticed her watching me walk in. Then she began to speak;
“You should do something about your gate. Your hip might be out of joint.”
“Thanks,” I said, “it’s been quite a day. I think I’ll stretch after a shower.”
“I see your wedding ring. You should be walking the Camino with your wife!”
“Thanks,” I said, “but she walked her pilgrimage two years ago. And now I’m walking mine.”
“Huh” was her response.
She continued. “What do you do when you’re not on the Camino.”
“I’m a songwriter.”
“Well when you get to Santiago, you should write a lot of songs because it’s an amazing place. This is my third Camino. And I still haven’t figured out why I keep coming back. Maybe there’s a lesson for me.”
What I wanted to say was, “I can think of one lesson!” But alas, I reached out my hand and said, “Hi, I’m David.”
“I’m Pam. I’m a massage therapist but I’m not giving massages on the Camino. I’m only administering volunteer first aid to people who need it. You should lay down with your feet elevated until they get cool. Then drop them down until they warm up again. Then repeat.”
“Thank you Pam. Thank you very much.”
That exchange took place in the span of about 90 seconds.
It immediately took me to one of Missy’s notes she wrote for me to open up on various days on the Camino. A most memorable one reads, “This is your Camino. There are no shoulda’s, or woulda’s, or coulda’s…there is only what you feel called to. If everyone is walking fast and you want to walk slow, walk slow. If everyone is walking 30 kilometers and you want to walk 35, walk 35.
Camino or no Camino, the exchange with Pam opened up a history of shoulda’s, coulda’s, and woulda’s that have come my way over several decades.
It’s one thing to ask for advice, guidance, direction, prayer…and receive a few ideas about what I could/should/would do.
It’s another thing to feel accosted by a stranger who is certain they’ve got answers for me on the spot…without even knowing my name.
I thought to myself, “Well, one bunk room and one Pilgrim meal with Pam won’t kill me. Maybe there is a Camino lesson for me.
She approached me 4 times on The Way today, offered a few more shouldas and I thanked her.
And when I walked into my Albergue at 4:45 pm, worn out from the road, there she was in the bunk across from me.
Turns out she was shoulda-ing someone else. I felt relieved.
It’s clear to me that Pam’s thoughts reflect her story more than mine. I’m simply praying for the patience to receive what she says with kindness.
Who knows how often Pam was shoulda’d in her past to get her to this point of Shoulda Pontification.
It’s easy to judge. I will try not to. It might be healthy to ignore her, but it would certainly be rude.
Maybe I’m to learn more patience.
I’ll stick with patience and kindness. That’s what my heart tells me I should do.