Becoming hospitaleros

Becoming hospitaleros

16 July 2015

A hostel, a hospitalero. Every pilgrimage would be a lot harder (and more expensive) if there were not hostels located at the right distance from one another. These provide simple, essential accommodation, in which, at the end of the day, the tired pilgrim finds everything they need in that moment: a warm shower, food, a bed for the night. And a welcoming smile, someone with whom to exchange a story, to sing or simply to silently sit with, knowing they can lay their fatigue down.

This is who a hospitalero is: a person who finds happiness in welcoming pilgrims and ensuring them a clean, well-stocked and hospitable place where they can recuperate. A person willing to meet new and different people, new and different lives every day, ready to give the same, yet individual warm welcome to somebody else.

Similar Jobs. The experience of an hospitalero is similar to that of a counselor. The hospitalero accompanies and supports the pilgrim’s journey as much as a counselor does their client’s:

  • They welcome a tired human being, who walked a long way bearing a heavy weight on their shoulder, be it a 9 kg rucksack, the responsibilities of a role or life complexities.
  • They offer food for the soul and mind. They bring stimulating questions, new perspectives, that can nurture a new way of thinking, create cross-roads where there used to be only one-way streets.
  • They provide a place where you can care for yourself, a bed on which you can rest, a space in which you can cast off your tiredness, talk about yourself, be listened to, recover. From here, you are ready to start your journey again, with renewed energies.

All this is made possible because of a spirit of warmth and unconditional welcome, in which there are no models to adhere to, ideals to aspire to; instead, individuality is respected, reenergised and allowed to blossom.

An equal exchange. It might seem that the relationship between hospitalero and pilgrim, counselor and client, is a one-way thing. It is not like that. Providing, helping somebody is not the same as serving someone. When I try to provide for somebody, I see something wrong in the other person. When I help, life appears weak. Both implicate a disparity, an unequal relationship. This creates debt.

On the contrary, serving is equal, reciprocal. When serving, we place our whole – our wounds, our limits, even our obscure traits – at each other’s disposal. And we receive something in exchange. When we serve, life appears complete and we become aware we are the means to achieve something bigger than we are. Therefore, when I help I feel satisfaction, when I serve I feel gratitude. (Freely inspired by “Being a compassionate companion”, by Frank Ostaseski)

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