Toward the end of the Pilgrimage

July 7
It is afternoon in the lounge of Raimund’s flat in Bad Godesberg, just out of Bonn, looking out over a garden like ours at home, in a quiet woody residential area just by a lovely walking forest.
The second of my two days of solitude is coming to a close. No phone or internet!
Earlier Raimund and I spent nearly two whole days catching up with each other, dining in Beethoven’s old pub and visiting a medieval village on a mountain to drink coffee and talk and revel in the beauty.
I have met a team of volunteers from the parish who are taking responsibility for 1,000 refugees – taking time out from their professions of psychiatry, social work and law to marshall the resources of the parish and to connect with the authorities on their behalf. And I am introduced to some of the refugees – who have little language- or anything for that matter!
Raimund told me a lovely story, among many, of an elderly lady of the parish who came to him on behalf of herself and others in her neighbourhood, who were frightened of the refugees moving in close by. It is understandable that they have no experience of meeting such ‘foreigners’.So Raimund went to the Mayor and suggested that something be done. Subsequently a meeting was arranged for the residents to meet the refugees. Once they had met face to face and the elderly had heard their stories, their fear evaporated. Now, in true German fashion, the elderly have organised themselves to provide baby sitting, clothes, food and so on! Who would have thought they would embrace them so warmly?
That’s Oasis in action, right there! Contact, listening, empowering, advocating, accompanying…creating space for the other to ‘dream their own dreams, sing their own songs and dance their own dances’! Life in all its fullness as the elderly find meaning in their final days and the needy find the love and acceptance they so desperately need!
Now in these days of solitude I confront my demons and draw spiritual strength and insight from my tradition. Sleep-ins, late morning coffee at the local café, reading and writing poetry, walking, reflecting and connecting the thoughts running through my head, accessing Raimund’s wonderful CD collection, sipping cups of tea.
Bruce Cockburn sings about ‘trying to keep the latent depression from crystallising’. Having entered into the history of some of the worst that men do to each other these last weeks, I think Cockburn hits the spot:
These shoes have walked some strange streets
Stranger still to come –
Sometimes the prayers of strangers
Are all that keeps them from
Trying to stay static
Something even death can’t do
Everything is motion –
To the motion be true

In this cold commodity culture
Where you lay your money down
It’s hard to even notice
That all this earth is hallowed ground –
Harder still to feel it
Basic as a breath –
Love is stronger than darkness
Love is stronger than death
The gift
Keeps moving –
Never know
Where it’s going to land.
You must stand
Back and let it
Keep on changing hands
Hackles rise in anger
Heat waves rise in sex
The gift moves on regardless
Tying this world to the next
May you never tire of waiting
Never feel that life is cheap
May your life be filled with light
Except for when you’re trying to sleep
The gift keeps moving –
Never know
Where it’s going to land
You must stand
Back and let it
Keep on changing hands.

The Gift  Bruce Cockburn

Now Alfred Brendel has finished his magnificent recital, so it will be time for another cup of tea and to look forward to our final get-to-gether tonight with Raimund – to watch France and Germany in the semi-final of the Euro Cup. Then I leave early tomorrow for Paris to meet Sandy, who has been at a committee meeting in Versailles, to make our way home.

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