I am pleased to share a guest post by Francis Kim, the voice behind Our First Date All Over Again. I got to know Anna and Francis Kim at our SF Bay Area pilgrim events and training hikes over the last two years. We trained for our 2016 Caminos around the same time and recently attended Hospitalero training together in Los Gatos, California. They will make an excellent team at an albergue some day! Below is Francis’s take on serving as hospitaleros.
Not to be served but to serve… (Matthew 20:28)
By Francis Kim
When I think of the scene where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples, words like humility, service, trust, and love come to mind. Powerful words that move me: move me to action even though I am not a devout, church-going Christian. So, if I love the Camino, what would be the best way to express that love or share that passion? Perhaps one expression of love for the Camino is to give back and volunteer as a Hospitalero.
What exactly does a Hospitalero do? Although Anna and I are fully certified Hospitaleros, I am not sure because we have not actually volunteered yet. However, based on our training, here are the basics. It is a two-week commitment to go to a country where you do not speak the language. There, you will be asked to be helpful and polite to tired pilgrims who have just walked 15-20 miles, cook dinner and breakfast with a lean budget for 30-50 people who no doubt have various dietary restrictions, clean toilets, break up folks who are either too frisky or too overtly amorous, control drunks, change deadly, explosive canisters of propane gas whenever, wherever, and become friends with folks who speak in a foreign tongue and whom you may never see again. By the way, did I mention that you do not get paid, and you have to pay your airfare to get to the middle of nowhere for this privilege? How cool is that! Where do I sign up?
Well, as luck (or fate) would have it, an opportunity to train to become a Hospitalero was going to take place not more than an hour drive from our home. Without a second thought, Anna and I signed up. It just felt like the right thing to do at the right time.
After sending five kids away to college and living the life of empty nesters, for many years Anna and I have dreamt to open a hostel for college students from different cultures—to feed and provide them with a safe haven, to share in the joy of jointly plotting out their futures, and to witness their journeys as they navigate through various milestones. In Korea, these hostels are known as Hasookbaang, i.e. Boarding Houses or in our context, albergues!
We would open up our home as well as our whole being. Our experiences—professional and personal—would be an open book and we would ask for nothing in return other than to have the opportunity to be young again. As much as we would give to the guests, we would receive more in return in the form of youthful chatter and fresh memories.
At first blush, perhaps this is why we were attracted to becoming Hospitaleros: for the opportunity to welcome guests and to become part of their Camino, to ask for nothing other than an evening of fond memories and friendship. Looking back, of all the albergues, the time spent in Zabaldika and Granon stand out the most. Why? Because the Hospitaleros connected with both Anna and me in a way that was both gratifying and profoundly spiritual. Wow! If only we could in our own small way have the same impact.
The training itself was mostly an exercise in common sense: very little new knowledge but reinforcements of existing principles and values. The real “kicker” was the training leaders that would draw us deeper and deeper into the world of Hospitaleros. They all took a risk in sharing their personal stories with us with the confidence that we would love them back even more. They trusted when they performed their silly skits, knowing that their performance would not only make us laugh but also leave an indelible memory. Through acting and sharing rather than teaching, the veteran Hospitaleros spawned off new Hospitaleros and showed us the circle of life in its finest, living form.
Would I have the ultimate humility to wash a stranger’s foot? Perhaps not. But I vow to greet each and every pilgrim regardless of race, color or creed with a warm smile and welcome them to the albergue like I would an old, lost friend in my home. If pilgrims have any ailments or grievances, I vow to assist them to my fullest ability. If pilgrims have any doubts about the Camino, I vow to reset their compass to true North. In sum, I vow to serve rather than be served. Anna and I both vow to become Hospitaleros!
Learn more about Hospitaleros on the American Pilgrims on the Camino website.
Share the Camino love! ♥