Kindness for the sole sake of kindness was a common trait shared by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago. Strangers go out of their way to make the lives of others better and expect nothing in return. One day, I was writing in my journal and the hospitalera tapped me on the shoulder. The woman who had checked me into the hostel pointed to my feet and gave me the universal finger movement suggesting massage. She led me to a chair by the fire. With a constant smile, this kind lady rubbed my feet for at least an hour and would not accept any type of compensation for the good deed. Instead, she said, “Help the next person in need.” I was witness to the Chinese proverb: “If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”
My paperback, A Million Steps, will be two years old in a few days. This book helped me launch a public speaking journey that continues to this day. Over the past two years, I have done over 100 live events and presented to over 7,000 people in 6 states. I speak at corporate events, book clubs, hiking stores, and libraries. If you know of a group in need of a speaker, please send them my speaker packet. The live events remind me of the days on the Camino because I have the opportunity to meet and interact with incredible strangers from throughout the world.
Last week, I spoke in the beautiful lakeside community of McCall, Idaho at their public library. Earlier in the day, I was at Mountain Java to satiate my latte needs. While waiting for the milk to froth, I began chatting with the lady behind me. She was there to deliver some wine gift bags. I jokingly tried to extract a middleman fee (a sunrise muffin) for handing the bags to the owner behind the register. It was a short counter encounter, but one filled with smiles and laughs.
The second person to show up at the library was the wine bag lady. I finally had a proper introduction to my fine new friend Jubilee. Her smile and handshake exuded some serious good juju energy. We laughed about the coffee shop incident and began to talk about the Camino. As more people showed up, I had to focus my time on meeting the other guests. About 15 minutes before showtime, Jubilee came up to me, handed me her credit card, and told me to give my entire book inventory to the attendees. I offered a discount but she was adamant about paying full retail. Her only stipulation was that I needed to personalize and sign each copy.
The next day, I made arrangements to meet Jubilee for dinner on Sunday. Upon arrival at the restaurant, I was greeted with a blessing bag. During my library presentation I made a reference to the incredible sunflowers along the Camino. My bag was topped with a three foot long beautiful silk sunflower. She visited the local farmer’s market to get me a real one and ended up buying eight. Her penchant for giving caused her to give away all eight to strangers. At the end of the unexpected gift giving spree, the market was closed so she took the time to find a silk one at a local store.
Jubilee believes that people can only give what they receive (especially love), so she tries to make the world a better place by providing gifts in many forms. At three different times in her life, she actually opened gift shops to spread the love. Her last one was open for nine months. Six days a week during regular business hours, everyone was welcomed into her store filled with elegantly wrapped gifts. The contents were unknown, but there were hints to gender and age. She encouraged people to take two gifts, one for themselves and another to re-gift. No money ever changed hands in this store and donation were not allowed. She mentioned that a tiny handful of people took advantage of the generous offer, but shrugged it off knowing that they needed it most.
At another point in time, her mother was losing a long battle with cancer. Jubilee decided to take a 200-mile pilgrimage walk to express gratitude for having such a wonderful mom in her life. She walked for 40 days and pulled all of her gear in a Red Flyer Wagon. The cart was adorned with four flags (Christian, Jewish, American, and Smiley Face). The wagon was attached to a waist belt so her hands were free. At the end of the walk, she shaved her head (Q-ball) to provide locks for a wig to be given to her mother. Her mom died that same day.
After dinner, I walked to her car and was filled with gratitude for being able to share a meal with such a wonderful person. Driving home, I saw a beautiful full moon through the trees and a cloudy sky. I would not have received this gift had our dinner been at another time or place. When I pulled into the driveway she had already sent me a text thanking me for keeping her out late so she could see the astonishing moon.
Back at my friend’s condo, I began browse through the gifts in my blessing bag. Her instructions were to enjoy them or give them to other people. There were a total of ten gifts and each one was extremely thoughtful and personalized. My favorite was a small journal with a lock. The cover reads, “Life is your canvas, no one can paint it but you.” I opened the lock to check out the paper and was surprised to see that Jubilee made the August 30 entry for me. “You may only get one chance to touch a soul and heart—touch the soul with kindness and the heart will beat with life! Joyfully, Jubilee.
I took the first of a million steps on Sept 14, 2012. In my wildest dreams, I never expected to have my life graced with so many exceptional people. What a gift!