Walked: 22.4 Km
A French woman arrived late to the albergue with her twelve-year old daughter. This albergue is very small and based on donations, so it fills up very quickly. The hospitalero used me as a translator, as his English was very basic. He wanted me to tell them there were a couple of private options in town which could provide a bed for a reasonable price.
The woman angrily claimed it was impossible for them to pay that price, so the hospitalero offered a mattress inside the church next door. The woman seemed to cheer up, but some minutes later she returned looking angry again. Whatever arrangement she was shown inside the church had not been to her satisfaction. She claimed that her daughter could not sleep in those conditions.
The hospitalero then showed them a 90cm mattress which they could use to sleep on the floor of the dining room. Again, the woman seemed unsatisfied and yet again appealed to the comfort of her daughter.
I pondered the situation: it’s the parent’s responsibility to provide comfort for their children. She is being foolish by bringing her child on a low budget backpacking trip. But, if it is to be done, then she should follow the rules and show up at an appropriate time rather than to use her daughter to buy her way in through guilt.
Then, on the other hand, it is impossible for a 12 year old to make an informed decision to walk the camino. Even if she were enthusiastic about it, it was her mother’s decision. She would have to suffer her mother’s foolishness. I looked at her, her look was absent minded. I knew all too well the feeling: mom is often too willing to get into conflict to get what she wants, and the child is her ammo. The child looked at me, and we smiled at each other.
“They can have my bed, they’ll be more comfortable there”, I said in Spanish, so they could not understand before the hospitalero consented. He expressed great relief and shook my hand. Then I let them know and the mother expressed some flimsy oh no, that’s ok we will sleep on the floor, which I waved away.
There is no pleasure and or karmic implications in a gesture of this kind. If you enable the manipulator, you prevent suffering to the child. Give the manipulator a lesson, and the innocent child suffers. What is one to do? When in doubt, reduce suffering.