Hitch­hik­ing great for con­nect­ing with oth­ers

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - OPINION - Fr Michael Com­mane

HITCH­HIK­ING is a long for­got­ten art. When last did you see some­one hitch­ing on an Ir­ish road?

I have an early af­ter­noon ap­point­ment so give my­self ap­prox­i­mately two hours to cover 30 kilo­me­tres a la thumb.

It’s in­stant luck. In less than a minute a ve­hi­cle pulls up just be­yond where I am stand­ing. They are go­ing my way. Magic. It’s an old VW camper van. A young boy hops out and opens the slid­ing door and in­vites me to get in. I pre­sume it is his mother who is driv­ing. She tells me to sit on the mat­tress in the back.

Off we go. There are three peo­ple sit­ting in the front, the driver, the young boy and an older man.We get talk­ing. The driver hails from South Africa and has been liv­ing in Ire­land for a num­ber of years. I pre­sume her son is Ir­ish and the man is from Water­ford. They are in­ter­ested in Ir­ish mu­sic and play the odd tune. It turns out they know peo­ple whom I know, so we get chat­ting about where they are now and what they are do­ing. Here I am talk­ing to strangers, ex­chang­ing views on dif­fer­ent top­ics but maybe most of all hav­ing a good laugh and en­joy­ing one an­other’s com­pany.

The camper van is some­thing straight out of 1960s’ hippy world. It cer­tainly is dif­fer­ent. The con­ver­sa­tion is lively and in­ter­est­ing. There is a sense of ca­ma­raderie be­tween us. We ar­rive at my des­ti­na­tion, the young boy jumps out, slides open the door for me and out I pop. I thank them for the lift. We smile, say our good­byes, off they drive and I have oo­dles of time be­fore my ap­point­ment.

On the re­turn jour­ney later that day I travel by bus for the first 20 kilo­me­tres and then back hitch­ing for the fi­nal 10 kilo­me­tres. Again, that ini­tial few min­utes at the side of the road is daunt­ing. But I’m en­joy­ing it too. It’s fun and some­thing of a chal­lenge.

I’m in luck. Within five min­utes I’m sit­ting in the pas­sen­ger seat of a 152 van. It’s my day for vans, old and new. This time the driver recog­nises me from of old. In the short 10-kilo­me­tre jour­ney we share mem­o­ries of for­mer times. It was so for­tu­itous that we met. As a re­sult of his stop­ping to pick me up, the next day his wife calls to

me and we have a short but won­der­ful and up­lift­ing con­ver­sa­tion.

Within a short three days of my hitch­hik­ing ad­ven­ture an el­derly priest friend of mine ex­presses his be­lief that the in­sti­tu­tional church is where it is today partly be­cause there is no ef­fort what­so­ever for any sort of di­a­logue, com­mu­ni­ca­tion or real and hon­est talk­ing among the priestly class.

I’m think­ing about what he said: how can I com­pare my hitch­hik­ing con­ver­sa­tions with the con­ver­sa­tions I have at meet­ings with fel­low priests? In­deed, I have sel­dom if ever had such an open and real con­ver­sa­tion with the man­age­ment class within the Ir­ish church. There is some­thing sys­tem­i­cally out of kil­ter with the man­age­ment, the day-to-day com­mu­ni­ca­tion within priest­hood both within dio­ce­ses and re­li­gious con­gre­ga­tions.

I sug­gest an Ir­ish bishop or pro­vin­cial leave the car in the garage for a day and take to the road hitch­ing a lift. He might well learn a thing or two. It is a great way to meet peo­ple and save on car­bon emis­sions.

In­deed, when last was a bishop on a bus?

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