That is among my excuses for being such a lazy blogger over the past few weeks. It has a ring of truth since my jack russell terrier knocked my laptop off the table and destoyed it, but truthfully things have been hectic over the past while. I last wrote on my return from Berlin, and since that I have also visited London, Laois and Lourdes. It wasn’t an intentional effort to visit ‘L’ places, but now that I see it in print it looks cute!
I travel to Lourdes every couple of years for no particular reason, although I frequently joke about going there to pray for a man. Proving God has a sense of humour, when I arrived this year I discovered Daniel O’Donnell was on the same pilgrimage as me, accompanying his mother. I have written about Daniel in the past, around the idea that such a seemingly ‘good’ guy gets such bad press. I think a lot of people have the idea that no-one can be as sweet or wholesome as Daniel. Having watched and photographed him shamelessly in Lourdes for a week, I can only say that he is one of the sweetest, most caring people I have ever come across.
The trip itself started off on a very difficult note with a 20 hour delay in Dublin airport. If anyone was to sit back and make a conscious decision about the worst group of people you could inconvenience in an airport, then a group with 105 invalids, many in wheelchairs or seriously disbaled had to be that group. The day after our arrival Daniel came to the hospital and spent as long as it took meeting and greeting the sick. The effect his visit had on some of the folk was amazing to see, and quite humbling. I was really struck at his patience and good humour. On one occasion, he stood in a line for communion just in front of me. A woman pulled on his sleeve and tried to ask him to attend a function for MS next year somewhere. He quietly asked if she could wait until after Mass, or at least until after communion. Sure enough, soon as he turned from the Priest, the woman took his sleeve again……… ‘As I was saying to you Daniel……’The price of fame is clearly way too high for my taste.
On the evening before we returned Daniel made a surprise appearance at the traditional ‘knees up’ for patients in the hospital. Now his music is not to my taste, but once again I was struck by his nature and kindness. He truly delighted people on the trip and there was nothing false or self serving about his appearance. He gets a lot of flack for his demeanour, but I think a lot of us have a lot to learn from this unassuming and generous Donegal man.
One final thought on this: I was talking late at night to to someone else on the trip and considering why we enjoy the trip so much. We decided that in our lives today we spend less and less time on contemplative matters. We are constantly surrounded by some kind of technology or connective communication device. How often any more do we ‘stop and stare?’ This kind of trip allows time out of daily life and as a ‘helper’ the additional privilege of using physical prowess to assist those who are not so endowed. Such feelings of being re-grounded or re-centred don’t last forever as you quickly return to the work and activities that make you burn out in the first place. None the less, its well worth while stopping and staring every now and again and re-evaluating the things in life that are precious and important.