I left Astorga full of hope and excitement for the days ahead. Trying not to place any expectations on the experience, but knowing whatever was about to happen would be perfect and powerful. Maybe I was feeling a little cocky when I said, " Bring on the lessons. I'm ready today."
I stopped in a little town about 6 km outside of Astorga, about an hour and a half walk, for something to eat. As I sat there eating my breakfast, it suddenly occurred to me that I had forgotten to get money before I left the city. I only had about 20€ in my pocket. Enough to get me by for a day or two. I wasn't too worried, thinking there would be a cash machine in Rabanal, only a day away. I started looking through the towns coming up on an iPhone app I have. It didn't take long to determine there wouldn't be a cash machine for several days. Even if I gave up my expensive Coca-Cola a day habit, I just couldn't stretch the money I had far enough. I was going to have to walk all the way back to Astorga.
Hoping the iPhone app was wrong, I went inside and asked the owner of the cafe, Pilar, where the next cash machine was. She confirmed it was in Ponferrada, several days ahead. Astorga was my only choice. The walk back would cost me 12 km round-trip and another day out of my schedule. I was deflated. What else could I do?
Seeing the look on my face, Pilar immediately said, "If you can wait a few minutes, I have business in Astorga. I will take you and bring you back." I was flooded with relief. It never occurred to me to refuse. The Camino always provides. This was just one more example.
Soon we were on our way in her "new" car. It was 15 years old, but it was new to her and she was so proud of it. We talked of many things on that drive back to Astorga. Things like The Way, spirituality, religion and the goodness of people. But she left me speechless when she looked at me and said, "The only reason we are here on this earth," pointing first to herself and then to me, "is to learn to love and to help others find their way. The way that is right for them."
I began to cry (yes - again!) remembering my promise from yesterday and the promise I'd received in return. This was no accident. No coincidence. The events of this morning were divinely orchestrated.
When we arrived back in her small town, having gone only to the bank for me, no "business in Astorga" for her after all, I hugged her and thanked her for her immense kindness. I wanted to ask what I could do for her in return, but before I could say a word, she shook her head, smiled and said one more thing before she was gone.
Wow. How did she know?