Passing Sarria (coming from Santiago), the number of pilgrims on the Camino decreases dramatically (approximately one fifth).
As a consequence, the number of hugs I gave every day decreased (although I am unable to count them).
Pilgrims walk in groups of 2 or 3. They are often keen to stop and talk with me. I have all my time and I am always happy with these discussions on the way, even if, as a result, my average speed is about 1 km/hour in the morning!
I try to guess the country or the language of each pilgrim in order to translate "free hugs" in different languages.
It is so wonderful when people tell me "got bless you", "I really needed that", or even "you made my day" !
For me, one of these "real hugs" make my day, too.
Before Ponferrada, I had a few hard times, too.
In the early morning, pilgrims are rushing. No time for a hug, not even time to answer my "buenos dias" or even to give me a smile in return to mine. It was hard for me to understand that these "early pilgrims" are really tired. I must admit that my first reaction was anger when, after 50 smiles and "Buen Caminos" I only received 2 smiles in return.
I have to learn to give my smiles (or hugs) without expecting anything in return, not even a word or even a look.
It also hard not to react when pilgrims think that I am asking for a hug. When I first heard: "Ah, you want a hug? Ok, then, I'll give you one", my reaction was to reply: "I don't need anything, it's just a gift".
It took me some time to understand how difficult it can be for some people to accept a gift without giving anything in return.
May the prayer of San Francis help me continue and become a better hugger...
"Oh Master grant that I may never seek so much to be understood as to understand".