By Leona Thomas
The sun was shining – a blessed relief. December in Lourdes, France was no fun. It may be famous for sightings of Mother Mary and miracles from drinking the water but it was cold and damp and there was no heating to be had in any of the buildings!
I parked myself on a bench outside the Confessional building. I had a lovely view of the Mother Mary statue from sideways on, and the large rose garden that is all around its base. There were some trees between us though and their shadow was forcing me along the bench as the sun moved during the afternoon.
I felt deeply relaxed and blessedly warm. But my suitcase and bag were with me as I didn’t have a room booked for the night. The problem was that I didn't have enough money to stay anywhere and I didn't have enough money to leave either! So I was stuck there in the sunshine sitting on a bench.
I spoke to Mother Mary. I said, "You do know the time? If I am staying I need to do something. And if I am leaving I definitely need to do something! Please tell me what to do… " Her answer was silence.
But even though I knew I had a situation to remedy I could not make myself move off that bench. Was it the sunshine? Was it me being lazy? Was I in denial of my situation? Well, whatever it was – I really couldn’t make myself leave that bench.
I watched a succession of people take photos of the huge statue of Mother Mary. One very large black man caught my attention. His family were all crowded in front of the statue as he clicked away on his camera. Then I noticed he turned in my direction and began waving. There was a man between us so I assumed that he was waving at him. I let my gaze wander… Until I heard footsteps nearby.
I looked up to find that I knew the big black man! He was grinning broadly and approaching fast. "I didn’t know you came back!" he said. I told him, “I didn’t leave yet. I’ve been here all this time!” We exchanged news and he asked me if I had a room yet. Then an old woman approached us. She was his friend. They chatted in French and then my friend said they had to go pray with Mother Mary.
Whilst my friends attended the French service at the Grotto I checked my energy. It felt very much like all our attention was in the place of ‘Leona doesn’t have a room’. That was no good. If you want to have a room you must have the energy that feels like you already have the room. So while they prayed with Mother Mary in the traditional way I spoke English with her and reminded her (and myself) that she had promised me that I would always have somewhere to stay. And I felt my energy shift to ‘Yes, I have a room’.
When the service was over we went to the Information Centre and came out with the name of a hotel that cost more money than I even had. I said nothing. My friends led the way.
First we went to my friend’s hotel. He had checked out that morning but the room was now taken. They had nothing until the next day. We kept walking.
Suddenly my big black friend said he had to go somewhere and he ran off! He reappeared 5 minutes later and called me over to him. He held out a piece of paper. When I opened it I found 40 euros inside. He told me this would pay for a room in his hotel for 2 nights and also get me some breakfast there. And then he said, "The old lady is going to pay for you to stay in the other hotel tonight". He then ran back to the Sanctuary so he could pray some more before having to catch his train. I have not seen him since.
I discovered that the reason I could not get off that park bench in the sun was that it was my rendezvous point. I didn’t need to do anything at all except wait for my answer to arrive. At no point did I tell my friend that I couldn’t pay for my room and I didn’t ask him for any help at all.
In a very short period of time I went from having no room for the night and no way to pay for one to having 3 nights all booked and paid for in very nice rooms indeed.
And I got a nice warm rest while I waited for my answer to be delivered…
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