“Perfect” Strangers

When I wake up from the nap, the fever is still there. Looking around, I notice that in between the time when I passed out and now, all the ninety bunk beds in the room have filled up. People are quietly going about their business, reading, writing, washing clothes, and resting their tired muscles. I don’t recognize anyone. Most of the familiar faces seem to have moved on. 

Bedroom for close to a 100 people
I try to reach over and grab my water bottle from the foot of my bed when a faintly familiar man passes by. He tries to find out what’s wrong but doesn’t understand what I’m saying. He leaves and comes back with a big Hungarian man who speaks fluent English; very quickly, the Hungarian man -- Istvan -- is convinced that I have what he had and strongly advises me to go to the doctor.  It turns out that he got caught up in the cold weather without proper winter gear and got a really bad fever and chills and almost died. On hearing his story, I gather enough strength to eat so I can take medicine. Istvan kindly hands me some medicine along with a quarter of a baguette from my bag on the floor.  A German lady offers me her banana.  Just moments ago, I felt like I didn’t know anyone and a bit lost in a crowd of ninety people -- but here I am.  If I didn’t get up to grab my water at the exact same time that the familiar man was passing by – I wonder if anyone would’ve even noticed that I was really sick. I eat and quickly slide back into my sleeping bag on the top bunk, covered from head to toe.  Because the high fever didn't subside, I wake up once again to take a Tylenol and then sleep through the rest of the night.

On Istvan’s suggestion, I was planning on asking the Refugio if I can spend an extra day. But to my surprise, I woke up at six in the morning feeling rejuvenated, ready to hit the road and have things go back to “normal”. Taking a peak outside at the rain, I knew I would need to wear a pancho; And I promised myself that I would walk slowly without overexerting myself. It was a beautiful walk. When I stopped to take a break at a café, I ran into Istavan again.  Almost flabbergasted to see me walking, he greeted me with a big smile. “We would’ve left you for dead,” he joked.  Every time I took a break, I was greeted with friendly smiles from people I’d never met.  "It’s a Camino miracle," someone said.

That same evening, when I couldn’t stop coughing, I got an impromptu physical from a man sitting across from me at dinner -- who happened to be a doctor. His final diagnosis was that I would live and prescribed me, “Vegetable Juice”. Rather serendipitously, I got back to my bed after dinner to find that another pilgrim had left a bottle of vegetable juice on my bed!  It took me two days to figure out who it was from. I felt like the whole universe was conspiring to help me. The kindness was coming in from all sides. It was almost too much to take in and I couldn’t wait to get better so I could start paying forward the kindness of strangers. 

The Camino has many lessons to teach: we are never given more than what we can handle. If it appears that we can’t handle something at first, it only means that we need to sharpen the tools that are already at our disposal. And indeed miracles do happen every day -- we just need to have the eyes to see them. 

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What a great post. I am glad you felt better by the time I got to the end. I totally believe this too: "I felt like the whole universe was conspiring to help me" It's one of those feelings that just fill you to the brim with joy. Here's to more recovery and more walking.