The warm invitation that this island, and its people, extend to new comers is quite profound. There is a very real sense that there are no strangers in our midst. In the context of the single road, the hostel or the beaches, there are ready smiles to lift yours, gregarious laughter rushing out to include you, and generous invitations to share tea, a meal or a bit of chocolate. One Swedish pilgrim noted to me today how, even though he just arrived yesterday, he has felt like he is with family. There is a sense of general community and conviviality that spans generations and gender.
In my short time on the island, I have been lovingly embraced by a group of British women staying at the hostel. I had opened the door of the hostel’s common area to review some receipts and in a manner of seconds was instead drawn in to their circle with stories of shared faith, red wine and chocolate. There is a very special feeling when surrounded by a group of wizened women who claim themselves with a mesmerizing confidence. Since the late hour last night when we first all met, we have continued to enjoy countless conversations about our different countries and mutual faith.
Once again, I’ve been reminded how these journeys challenge the best of us to put our agendas away and embrace the gift of humanity right in front of us. This type of soul journey is inevitably tied to how we connect and commune with others. Their very presence reminds us of the absolute value of the most precious gift: life!
The vibrancy of this island is seen all over, from the colors of the sea, to the crashing waves, to the delightful hand-made signage. Walking the streets and trails on Iona, while the wind bustles you about, truly brings one back to a fullness of life!