The hidden cleaners of Europe!
Well, we have been in Europe for two weeks, and what an amazing two weeks it has been. The madness and amazing sights of Rome, the stunning beauty of the Amalfi coast and the relaxed food heaven that is San Sebastian. You would think there would be much to inspire a blog. But I was waiting …
Then, last night, inspiration happened. We have been staying in an apartment in San Sebastian very close to the beach but without air conditioning. Well, there is air conditioning but it is very complex to set up, and we have no instructions and after numerous attempts to get it going, we gave up. Instead, we have been opening the windows at night to let in the breeze. Unfortunately, it also let’s in the noise!!!
San Sebastian is renown for its festivals, they celebrate so much as proud Basque people. This weekend is the Harbour festival. It starts well before the weekend, when large puppets roam the streets, traditionally entertaining the children who follow, laughing and cheering. Many of the restaurants and pintxos bars stay open late and generally encourage a party atmosphere. It is lots of fun, with both families and young people out, enjoying themselves.
We, of course, joined in the fun this evening, having our own pintxos tour, but while we eventually went home, many others didn’t. The night was long and, with a window open, sleeping was a problem.
Eventually the party finished and all was quiet. I heaved a sigh of relief and rolled over, expecting to get some sleep…
Then it started, the hidden ones began their jobs. I could hear garbage trucks winding their way along the streets, picking up the garbage from the bins and on the ground, men with water cannons cleaning the paths and roads, machines scraping the sand on the beaches to refresh it for the next day, while still others coordinated the whole process, communicating with one another by yelling and often laughing. There was a veritable army of people working throughout the night, preparing the city for anther day. People hidden from view but vital for the health and wellbeing of others, and of the tourists who visit on a massive scale. It was like a different population came out to play!
We woke up this morning to find no remnants of the party from the night before, everything was clean and new again. It was like these cleaners had appeared and then magically dissappeared.
When we look at our life, and the lives of others, we are constantly reminded that we live in a village, a community that needs lots of hands and feet, some obvious and some hidden. Like much in life we don’t see the hidden ones, only the results of what they do! Yet in all these different ways a contribution can be made, and meaning and purpose can be found, particularly when we acknowledge and value this contribution. It really struck me, at this early hour in the morning, that I was witnessing a miracle. A man made miracle but a miracle none the less.
It made me think of God, perhaps it’s because we are about to walk the Camino! Where do I see God revealed? The cleaners point the way and speak of a universal presence I have always known. For me God is revealed in the ordinary and everyday, it is the everyday miracles that reveals his presence to us. Sometimes if we come out of our little Christian bubbles we see God where he or she really is, right amongst us. God is as much in the church as out, as much in the hidden cleaners of San Sebastian as in Pope Frances. We just need eyes to see or ears to hear. Even when we are trying to sleep!
As Frederick Buechner says…
The sacred moments
The moments of miracle
Are often the everyday moments.