Sunday 22 September 2019

Hitchhiking great for connecting with others

Fr Michael Commane - The Way I See It

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?

Gorey Guardian