Harry. California.

The young man splashed across across the plaza in front of the Parador, paying no attention to the rain. Stopping in the middle he glanced around, then faced the Cathedral and paused for awhile. I asked the Concierge what this was all about. “He’s a pilgrim, and he just finished walking, probably from the French side of the Pyrenees.” Mary Ann said, “We have to do this.”
But years passed, and we didn’t do it. Until our 52nd wedding anniversary, when we decided that would be the year. And it would have been, except for a tragic accident. A few days later Mary Ann died, so I made the walk from St Jean Pied-de-Port to Santiago in her memory. It was a good way to mourn and to think and to pray. And to meet other people with different, but equally serious, intentions.
One man I met was a psychologist, walking from Paris. He told me that pilgrimage can be addictive, which made me laugh, but next year I found myself walking from Paris. Then someone said Vezelay was a good place to start. And it was. So was Arles. And so was the start in England, walking along the North Downs Way, then across the channel and south along the coast to St. Jean. But my favorite starting point was and is Le Puy-en-Velay. And that’s where I’m headed now.
At the end of every pilgrimage I try to think of my favorite memory. It’s not the village architecture, though that’s wonderful. It’s not the stunning scenery. And it’s certainly not the weather, which can be cruel. It’s the people. Everybody I’ve met has been the kind of person I’d like to have at home as a friend. No exceptions. Especially the people who live there and run the places that care for pilgrims. They have a quality that has been hard for me to define. But last year, a young man from South Korea, living now in Hong Kong, explained it to me. “It’s kindness,” Paul said, “They are kind.” They are, and I don’t know how they do it, day after day, pilgrim after pilgrim. Without them the pilgrimage route would be very different and not nearly so pleasant.

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