PC #56 – What if you found €1,000…

What if you found €1,000 while you were walking the Camino…

What would you do?

Let’s say you found it – a bundle of cash – by the side of the trail. As if someone had pulled something out of their pocket, and the money had fallen out. Or at a wayside stop – on the ground beside a table and bench. €1,000 in cash.

What would you do?

Let’s say it’s nearly lunch, you’re just outside a town or village –

  • would you go to the police and hand it over?
  • would you search out some of the popular pilgrim lunch spots and ask if anyone had lost some cash?
  • would you go to the albergues and notify the hospitaleros?
  • or would you keep it, believing that the Camino “provides,” and had just provided you very handsomely?

If you did keep the wad of cash, would you feel elated? Or guilty? Would you consider that the Camino had slyly tested you, challenged your moral core, and you’d failed?

In other words, how would you feel? 

And if you did keep the cash, what would you do with it? Would you put it away some place safe, in case you found the person who’d lost it?

Or would you immediately spend it? And if so, what would you spend it on? A slap-up dinner, to celebrate? And while celebrating, would you ever consider that your fortune was someone else’s misfortune?

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64 thoughts on “PC #56 – What if you found €1,000…

  1. Bill, because I know how hard it can be to save tbat amount of money, and how it could cause such sorrow, or even trouble for the person who lost it, I would try to return it to whoever’s it was. Id do the searching myself, first, among fellow pilgrims, in places like bars and cafes;Id ask at the churches, and Id watch for someone who perhaps was very distressed about something. Id ask the police, but I don’t know if I would give them the money. And I would feel I was doing the right thing, or at least what I hope someone would do for me if Id lost it. If no owner was found and the money was given to me, I would thank God and spend it on 1000 € worth of physiotherapy for a quadraplegic I know.

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    • Hi sister –

      so in other words you would take time out from your Camino, your walk – and considerable time it would seem too – to do that kind of search?

      in other words, would you consider finding that money a “chore?”

      If spent on the quadriplegic it would be a blessed thing.

      Bill

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  2. That’s an easy one-I would take it directly to the nearest police station. I would ask if it was not claimed with a certain period of time, whatever is normal in such circumstances…a year?…then to please contact me. I would then donate it to a local church or society where it could benefit those in need or somewhere that would benefit the Camino or local community.
    In the meantime while walking I would keep my ears and eyes open for someone to mention or put up a notice that they had lost some money. Then direct them to the police.
    Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

    Debra

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    • Hi Debra,

      given that Spain is so impoverished at the moment, would you trust that a local remote country police station would do the right thing?

      Wouldn’t you be worried that a lowly paid policeman might just pocket the money?

      And how would you know if someone who came forward claiming the cash was telling you the truth? The money isn’t in a wallet, that would be identifiable.

      It’s just a wad of cash.

      Bill

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      • Bill, You are right, I wouldn’t know that the Spanish police officer would not just pocket the cash. Am I to infer that the Spanish police are untrustworthy, more so than the police forces of any other country? I should think there would be something official written up. And anyway, if he did pocket it, it would be up to him to justify it to God later.
        I would keep my ears and eyes open for someone advertising that they had lost money, either by word or notice. I would not ask around-that would just be silly. Anyone could run down there and say they had lost money.
        I should think that a person who had lost that amount of money would consider back-tracking to attempt to find it, and quite possibly go to the police station to inquire. So it is possible that I would hear or see a notice about it.
        Very good topic to bring up though, and very helpful input from previous pilgrims about carrying cash.
        Debra

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        • Hi Debra –

          My brother in law is a high level policeman. Honest as they come. And an old school chum is a former State Commissioner of Police. Same.

          That said, I spent 12 years working as a journalist before moving into filmmaking, and I can tell you that SOME street level cops, no matter what country, are not averse to pocketing a little cash if it conveniently comes their way.

          As for dealing with cash on the Camino – yes, you only ever need a small amount at any one time. Things are not expensive, and ATMs are everywhere. You do have to be careful though of thieves targeting ATMs, particularly in the big cities, like Pamplona. Bag snatching, pick-pocketing, that sort of thing. Particularly gypsy children, who have got it down to a fine art.

          Bill

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    • Bill, because I know how hard it can be to save tbat amount of money, and how it could cause such sorrow, or even trouble for the person who lost it, I would try to return it to whoever’s it was. Id do the searching myself, first, among fellow pilgrims, in places like bars and cafes;Id ask at the churches, and Id watch for someone who perhaps was very distressed about something. Id ask the police, but I don’t know if I would give them the money. And I would feel I was doing the right thing, or at least what I hope someone would do for me if Id lost it. If no owner was found and the money was given to me, I would thank God and spend it on 1000 € worth of physiotherapy for a quadraplegic I know.

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  3. Hello all,

    This situation happened to us in 1993 while we were living in Australia. We were on a catamaran on the way to Hamilton Island for our final holiday after a 2 year contract in Oz. My foot touched a bag under our seat, I looked inside – it was full of cash, it must have been around $5000. For a second I thought ‘what do I do now?’ Then realised that someone must be missing that money so handed it in to the staff on the boat, letting local police station know what I found in case they were tempted too! I hope that I would do the same today if the same situation arises.

    Eileen

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    • Hi Eileen –

      that’s wonderful that you did that. Keeping that money would have been tantamount to stealing.

      But this scenario I’m painting is different – no bag, which could be identifiable, no set location (that is, under a seat in a boat, where someone could have been sitting previously) – this is a wad of cash out in the countryside

      What would you do?

      Bill

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  4. Tough question Bill! In Australia I would have confidence on the police so I would hand in the cash. If there is no way of tracing back the owners then I would get to claim it after three months. I am not certain of the circumstances in other countries, but I would be more wary.

    If there is no way of establishing who it belongs to, and there are no grief stricken and panicking pilgrims searching for their cash nearby then i would keep it. And no, I would not feel guilty about it. I would also not advertise that I had it. Such quantities of dropped cash are quite likely to be the result of a drug deal or similar nefarious activity and I would definitely not want some angry drug dealer on my tail! 🙂

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  5. Ron-says-buy-yes… No, not the answer to Bill’s query… But a neat mnemonic for how to finally, pronounce the first place we come to after Orisson. Roncesvalles!
    I would try very hard to get somebody’s cash back to them… Whatever form that takes… I hope that doesn’t happen. I just wanna walk.

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    • Hey Peter –

      yes, I had to get my daughter, who speaks Spanish fluently, to teach me how to pronounce Roncesvalles!!

      Getting cash back to someone though is difficult – and it would disrupt your walk. You’d have to go to the cops (can you trust them?) go to albergues, bars etc it would take a lot of time and effort, when as you say, all you want to do is walk..

      Bill

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  6. Bill,

    As a pilgrim who walked the Camino already, and a person who has read the many posts on other forums as well as many guidebooks on the Camino, the advice always given is do not carry more than an amount that would suffice for one week. Now for most pilgrims staying in albergues that amounts to approximately €200-€300.

    That being said, I would be doubtful a sum that large would have been lost by a pilgrim on the Camino. However, that does not change the fact that I would look to return the money to its rightful owner. Most likely I would search for the owner as Sister would. And like Sister, I would not give it to the police but would definitely let them know I had found it.

    If this were to happen on my next Camino in September and I could not find the rightful owner, I would seek out one of the families who were affected by the tragedy of July 24, 2013 and donate the entire windfall to them.

    Arlene

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    • Hi Arlene –

      the reason I posted this is because there was a thread only recently on Ivar’s forum, where a woman had lost 1500 on the Camino. In fact, she wasn’t sure if it was 1,000 or 1,500. It was in her money belt, which she left in an albergue. Different situation, I know, but she had that amount of money on her.

      Foolish, I know. I never carried more than about 200 on me at any one time. Never needed to. But that woman did. And sadly, she never got her money back.

      In that instance, it was downright thievery.

      Bill

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  7. Bill, and all, that is exactly what happened in Murias de Rechivaldo. I used the washroom and there it was, a wallet, full of cash, drivers license, credit cards etc from a German Pilgrim. There were a few sitting outside having a beer and I asked if it belonged to any of them. It did not, but they remembered 2 young women that had left about 15 minutes prior. I then gave it to the owner of the bar and she was rather excited because she remembered those girls and was worried about them. So between the pilgrims there and I (not that I would have been able to catch up at all at this point) we wrote down her name and promised that we were going to ask at every stop about those girls, hopefully finding them and telling them were the wallet was left. As I walked on, I noticed the bar-owner locking her doors and getting into her beat up car and puttering down the road to find the girls. Not long, she was on her way back, stopped and told me she had found them in El Ganso, distraught and about to call the guarda civil.

    This is not an isolated incidence. I shook my head many times when I observed how nonchalantly pilgrims kept their valuables. The bar owner truly had a heart of gold, and I hope, she did not loose too much business for shutting her doors for a bit of time.

    Before I embarked on my Camino my pilgrim friends made sure that I understood that not everyone I would come in contact with would be a nice person, and the problem of “fake” pilgrims staking out the albergues can happen at times. It is so important to keep your valuables save. They were on my body all the times, and I never had more than 20 euros in my pant pockets, enough for food and drinks each day. In the morning, I would use the W.C. to take out the euros for the day, never in front of anybody EVER. Truth be told, I walked with a lot of cash and never worried.

    Ingrid

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    • Hi Ingrid,

      that’s a life affirming story with a wonderful outcome.

      And it’s wonderful that there are people out there like you, who would do the right thing, and people such as those bar owners, who would go out of their way to try and find the pilgrims.

      Personally, I have always found the Spanish to be incredibly honest and generous in that way.

      But the scenario I’m proposing is different – cash, no wallet, by the side of the road, not in an albergue

      what would you do???

      Bill

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      • That is simple – I would not keep it. I would not give it to the police. I would give it to a donativo or church or monastery. Which ever would show up on the Camino first. I would trust the Camino to guide me to the right place.

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        • Bill, like you said, not in an albergue etc… on the side of the road. So Ivar’s forum post is talking about a different scenario. And yes, I would hand it over to what comes first. IF, I would start qualifying who is worthier than others, than I might as well keep it, since I am worthy too. 😉 It is just not part of who I am. By handing that decision over to the Camino, Universe, Spirit, God, whatever you call it, it will be the right one. I do not think it implies guilt of any kind, why guilt, of what, I just don’t see it that way. IF I would be the one finding that kind of money or any kind of money, I am mend to be the one to find it and am mend to carry it to the place where it is used the best. Especially on the Camino… not everyone has their eyes wide open to see, you need to truly see in order to be that conduit. Also, it could be a test of character and values, why not. So many things that happen on the Camino are a test of some kind – tolerance with your fellow pilgrims and with yourself; test of strength, endurance, pain, joy, loving yourself and others; I am sure you can find a few more. Ingrid

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          • Hi Ingrid –

            like you say, this is an interesting scenario because it can be viewed so many different ways –

            It could be the Camino putting a test before you – and who’s to say you’re not more worthy of keeping the money, more so than someone else. Or if you give it to a church or a charity, who’s to know whether that money would be spent in a way you approved? It could be, in your view, wasted on something that, had you know, you wouldn’t have donated the cash.

            I will post a separate blog at the end of the day telling you all what I would do

            Bill

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  8. Bill, what an interesting scenario. My first and instant reaction was that I’d take it to the police and also mention it to the other perigrinos around me, put up posts around the place … but looking at the responses here, maybe that’d not be the right thing to do. I would not keep it; could not live with that, but like the idea of donating it to someone in need. On the other hand, when I’ve had something stolen (valuable or not) I’ve usually come to the conclusion that the thief probably needed it more than me, annoying and hurtful as that conclusion might be. Still 20 years after having all my (considerable hoard, purchased and inherited) jewelry stolen, I still miss some of those pieces and quietly curse the persons who stole it!!! Are you going to post this on the PGS Forum? Would be interesting to see what stories might come out!

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    • Dear Britta –

      good idea to post on the forum –

      Why though would you feel guilt at taking money that’s just dropped into your lap?

      Why donate it to someone else? Doesn’t that imply guilt?

      Bill

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      • Bill, you seem to be suggesting that if you found this money, you would keep it.Is that what you would do.?

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      • One could also pray and ask for direction as to what to do with the money. Even ask to be led to the person who lost it.
        Once very soon after my husband and I had been married, like a week, he lost his wedding band. He had been fixing fences on the farm, going from post to post through the fields of grass. Finding that ring was going to be pretty nigh impossible. I asked God to please lead me to it. And he did. I looked out into the field, selected a likely fence post, walked to it, and looked down into the grass. It was right there. Amazing.
        Debra
        ps he stopped wearing it except for holidays 😀

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      • Hi Debra –

        A very similar thing happened with Jennifer and myself – it involved a lost passport. I might do a separate blog on what happened, because it’s fascinating.

        Jennifer found it by essentially “praying,” although that’s not what she did. Although she might have…

        🙂

        But I’ll write a separate blog on it, because it’s almost identical to your story.

        Bill

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  9. Forgot to press for notifications.And I didn’t ask to be printed twice. This is some kind of bane.

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    • What a timely post. I live on a private road along with 16 other families. Inconsiderate people often leave trash along our road, so yesterday I was picking up the trash and found $5 and kept it. It’s mine and I’m not giving it back, cuz I’ve already spent it. Serves them right for not paying attention to what their throwing out the car window.

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      • Hey Dana –

        in that instance there’s no way of knowing which of the 16 families dropped that money – and for $5, it’s not worth the time and effort trying to figure it out.

        I think you were absolutely warranted in keeping that five bucks.

        But in the scenario I’ve outlined, what would you do – if you found 1,000 by the side of the Camino?

        (by the way, did you get that resized photo I sent the other day? When I got your PM this morning, I resent it.)

        Bill

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      • Trying to be funny, but I actually did find the $5. As for 1000 euros, I would not keep it, but not sure what I would do to find the owner, probably try to find the owner by asking around. If unsuccessful I would turn it over to the police.

        Bill, I sent you a PM

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      • Steve’s been totally out of pocket for two days and i am sitting in a doctor’s waiting room right now. I am inclined to say i would make some attempt to find the owner but if i truly could not, i would likely keep it but also likely spend most of it on fellow pilgrims who were usually tight of funds. Too many missing pieces for certainty. Don’t want to over think this so you got my genuine initial response, which usually is the most accurate one.
        Steve

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          • Just double checking with a long time friend/orthopedic surgeon about why my hips hurt. He confirmed via X-ray that no arthritis and only result of stress from overuse. Prescribed PT to stretch and work the joints, tendons and ligaments (at my suggestion) and said they would be fine. Interestingly, I have not heard of anyone else having hip problems along the way, but there must have been.

            Steve

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          • Hi Steve –

            good that you got it checked out anyway.

            I heard of other people with hip probs. I don’t think it’s uncommon.

            You put a lot of strain and pressure on your hips when you walk those long distances.

            Bill

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          • Hi Steve, my left hip sometimes acts up. Probably because of some slips I had in the past – icy on drive way etc. Never truly bothered me until 2005, when I closed down my childhood home in Austria to do some painting etc I did something to one of my lower back discs. Went off to spend time in Ischia (off the coast of Naples – wonderful island with hotsprings). I barely could sit, walk. I was lucky to meet a physiotherapist at the hotel who worked on me for a few hours, releasing the kink in my lower back and immediately calming the pain in my hip. I have from that time onwards, adopted a stretching exercise each morning before rolling out of bed. They work. The only time I get twitches is when I am bolting out of bed for some stupid reason. OR, like the other day, after having been inactive, decide to walk 10 km. In my mind and heart I might think myself to be 27, alas my body just does want to accept that. 😉 Keep up the stretches even when you fell tops.

            Ingrid

            P.S. since my rear-ender 2 weeks ago, full in on physio to eliminate potential chronic problems with neck, spine and surrounding tissues… what a bummer, not being at all gracious about it. 😦

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          • Emily, isn’t it wonderful how the Camino works it’s magic. Have you kept in touch? I have made the most wonderful friends pre, during and post Camino… I would have never met them any other way. Ingrid

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          • Hi Ingrid, I didn’t get her information other than her name. She was on the Camino because of a huge loss she had suffered and was having a hard time dealing with it. She ended up almost collapsing at the albergue “En El Camino” where we has stopped for lunch. The young man who helps run it with his parents helped her and got her into a private room and told her friends and I that he would look after her. I have always wondered how she was. I belief we were supposed to meet because of our stories of loss and how each of us handled it. I think I was doing better than her in coping and she needed to here that I belief but I also think it put her in to a bit of a tail spin and I feel bad about that even though I believe God put us together as did she. It’s funny there is so much more to this story but it would take all day to write it. Part of it was the young man who owned the albergue asked me where I was from in Canada and when I said Toronto he said where in Toronto, which being in a tiny little village in Spain seemed a strange question to be asking. I know Bill you are saying “don’t judge” lol But it turns out he had lived in London, Ontario for a couple of years. And then there was also a conversation with him about a bus I needed to take to get to Leon that everyone kept saying I had to go back to Burgos to get but it turns out there was one bus a week that left from Fromista, which is where I was going to that day, the very next day! The Camino gives you what you need!
            And speaking of friends we met I think we might have a couple in common.

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          • We haven’t met, but I think you met on the Camino or on facebook after, a couple of people I know from the Camino

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  10. I would inquire at the next villages and albergues whether someone was searching for ”something valuable” that might have been dropped on the Camino. I would leave some way to contact me, perhaps by e-mail. I would also post a note on Camino forums. I would not identify the item as cash to try and eliminate fraudulent claims. The real owner would be able to let me know that they had lost cash, how much and in what form they had lost it(i.e. in an envelop, in a wallet, tied up with a rubber band).
    I would also say a prayer to St-Anthony to help me find the owner. He’s never failed me in the past when I’ve misplaced things.
    If no owner is found, I would definitely donate it.

    Sonia

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  11. About 20 years ago, a friend found $80 on the sidewalk outside the county administration building. She picked it up, looked around to see if anyone looked like they had lost something – no one. No one was paying any attention. She went into the county admin building to look for an information desk intending to tell the attendant about money – not mentioning an amount, leave her first name and work phone number, and if someone asked the attendant about the money, refer that person on. However, there was no info desk – just a bunch of closed doors. She kept the money, went back to the office, told her co-workers about it. They agreed she should keep it. Instead she gave each of the four co-workers a $20 bill, and said it wasn’t hers, and she didn’t feel right about keeping it. Three of the co-workers gave the money back to her knowing that she was about to leave the US for Peace Corps service in Africa for a 2nd time, and asked her to spend it in a way that would benefit someone in her new village, and let them (the co-workers) know how it worked out. My friend said it was a very humbling experience – and did as they requested. It took some time for my friend to get acquainted with people in her village, and to figure out how to “spend” the $60. Eventually, she worked with the village to expand the local health clinic where she worked to include two new buildings (small huts, actually), and the money (changed into the local currency) was donated to the village “pot” to help pay for materials to build and equip the birthing and health huts. The villagers were told that this was a donation from friends of the volunteer back in the States.
    I don’t know what I would do in the scenario Bill has laid out – probably pray to The Camino to get me out of this situation NOW — I don’t want the responsibility for this money.
    Terry

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    • Hi Terry –

      that’s a great story, thank you. Wonderful to see what that money did –

      But, I’m not going to let you off the hook!

      🙂

      What would you do in the scenario I’ve outlined!!

      Bill

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  12. Most likely, given that I’d most likely be very impoverished on the Camino (as I always have been, so far), I’d simply thank God for it, and be grateful to get out of being the “€5/day trash” of fond remembrance from a certain Camino forum discussion …

    But then I’ve had the opposite experience of losing all my pilgrimage money from theft, one week into the walk to Rome. Took me at least 2-5 minutes that day to decide to carry on regardless…

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    • Though I’d *still* keep my ear to the ground, passively ; I *know* from experience that pilgrims who have lost money will make noise about it, and if God wanted me to return the cash to them, He’d set me on their traces, and I’d follow that PGS.

      I’d use none of it unless I was either completely cash-strapped, or until I felt certain that I’d never be finding the original owner(s).

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      • You’re right Julian –

        if someone had lost that kind of money, they’d squeal like a stuck pig.

        You’d hear them from the Camino del Norte.

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  13. An interesting topic for today. Bill, I am looking forward to your final response.
    A personal experience which would influence my decision:
    A few years ago when in Vienna, Austria, we were outside a museum and were stopped by “police” to see if we were trading foreign currency. [ we had just been asked by a young person if we spoke German and did we know where the bank was.] The “police” demanded our passports and asked to check our wallets. In full view of us, they very cleverly managed to relieve us of 300 euros. They showed photo ID, credentials etc, but it was obviously a very clever scam. We reported the incident but no further action. Luckily I had most of my cash hidden in other places.
    Would I trust the police? Probably not. Times are tough.
    Like many others, I would keep a look out and try to find the owner. I would then probably take the money to the Pilgrim Office in Santiago or to the Cathedral Office.
    A tough one to test trust, honesty and integrity.
    Blessings
    Anne

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    • Hi Anne –

      that’s an amazing story about Vienna. You don’t expect that kind of thing there – particularly in the centre of the city. No doubt if those crooks were ever caught impersonating police, they’d be in big big trouble.

      Yes, I wouldn’t trust the police with cash like that.

      But it is an intriguing question as to how you’d handle it.

      Bill

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      • I found a small purse lying on the ground just outside of Boadilla del Camino. I never for a second thought about keeping it I just wanted to get it back to the poor pilgrim who had lost it. I decided to look inside to find the person’s name and found her passport, credential, credit cards and a phone. I have no idea whether there was cash because I didn’t need to know, all I knew was someone had lost everything they needed to continue their pilgrimage and to be able to get back home. I could see some pilgrims walking up ahead but because I was walking so slow they just kept getting farther and farther ahead of me. So I asked the next pilgrim who came along to ask them if they had lost a purse when they got close enough to them. As I was talking I could see the pilgrims in the distance stop and start looking around then they turned around and started coming towards me. The purse belong to one of the women and I was able to give it back to her. Needless to say she was very grateful and felt we were meant to meet. As we shared our stories of why we were on the camino it became very obvious why we had met. We both had lost people close to us.
        The Camino works in amazing ways!
        Emily

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        • Dear Emily –

          what a delightful story.

          You hope that people walking the Camino share your values, and are good honest people. But unfortunately it’s not always so.

          And anyone walking the Camino shouldn’t think they should be any less vigilant than if they were walking anywhere else in the world.

          I’ve always said that doing the Camino doesn’t give you spiritual immunity from common crime.

          But that’s a great story you’ve posted, thank you!

          Bill

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          • Bill you are right about not being any less vigilant. The women whose purse I found had it attached to her backpack strap. She met up with some pilgrims she knew and as she was talking to them she undid her strap and didn’t notice that her purse had fallen off until much later down the road. She also had a very interesting and sad story but I didn’t get into that because it was her story not mine.

            I always tried to be very conscience of where my valuables were and who was around me especially in the bigger cities without being hyper vigilant or afraid. I had a strange man come up and stand right beside me at the entrance to the hotel-hostal that we were staying at in Pamplona and as I moved he moved. I went back into the lobby of the hotel and the concierge came out behind the desk and the man took off. Then in Burgos my friend and I where walking around the shopping district and a women ran right into me with a baby stroller and almost knocked me over, when I turned around to look at her she just stared at me. Still not sure what it was about but I put my hands on zippered pocket right away. Very good reminders that you don’t have to “be afraid, just be aware” anywhere you are.

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