I gathered up all my stuff which now fits neatly into a 12 pound backpack, and walked down the stairs of the Refugio. It´s 6:45am and all other pilgrims seemed to have left already. Filled up my water bottle at the large sink and almost didn´t see him standing at the door until I heard a voice, "will you help me, please?" Walking alone, a little weary of some of the men, I hesitate for a second. He points to his shoes and then moves his shirt to show me the stump on his right arm. "Of course!" How could I have been so blind? He has no arm. I hold back the tears and neatly and quickly tie a knot on both of his shoes. Not wanting him to feel my sadness, I go back to my pack as matter-of-factly as I can and he leaves on his journey.
It´s hard to imagine how life must be for him each day. The simple things that I take for granted, like putting on my backpack, twisting the cap on my water bottle without thinking about it, quickly climbing up to the top bunk of the bed, getting into my sleeping bag and zipping it up, or tying a double-knot on my shoelaces. How many little things to be grateful for each day. Each day is a gift.
Six hours later a Polish man passes me on the road, bright blue eyes and a big smile. He points to his shoes. "Remember you help me this morning" he says in his broken English. I smile back broadly this time, because I no longer feel bad for him, "yes, yes, it was not a big deal." "Thank you for your help," he grinned as I wished him a good journey and walked on.
For some reason I don´t worry about how he will tie his shoelaces tomorrow. I have a feeling he will be taken care of. He has his gifts just as we all have ours. What I worry about is if I will allow small fears to build walls around me or if I will be able to un-tie my own inner knots and take advantage of the opportunities to serve.