On a recent trip to Inverness, Scotland, we stopped by a magical place true to Scottish lore. Clootie Well, a well surrounded by trees and healthy foliage, was the ancient remnant of old Scottish tradition. It’s believed that pilgrims would once flock to this well in hopes of curing a disease or ailment. The pilgrims would dip a strip of cloth, or “cloot,” in the well or spring and hang the cloth on a nearby tree branch. The healing ritual ended with a prayer and good wishes to those in need (whether for the person hanging the cloth or a loved one).
Now, I’m not much of a superstitious person myself, but something called out to me in that forest that cool September day. It was as if I could hear a collective sigh reverberating through the trees; a sigh of all those yearning to heal. It echoed with the voices and pleas of people who may be like me, who knew how much our energy and thoughts could travel to help a person’s soul, even if that hope was all we had to give. Clearly, these pilgrims felt the same way; I’m guessing many of them traveling from afar, and with limited resources. I’m reminded how far love and the power of “good” can travel when at your core, you know it’s the best you can do for yourself and someone you care for.
As I made my way through the forest and up the jagged stone steps, guided by my friend’s arm and our bubbly tour guide, I took it all in: this cloth version of a “get well soon” card display that carefully hung on trees and branches. The fine threads wavered in the breeze, and rags were wrapped around barks, like children embracing their mothers. There was a silent, unshakeable innocence and vulnerability that lingered in the air. As I silently placed my damp cloth on a small, slightly withered branch, I thought of my loved ones: the friends that are struggling, the friends that are sad, the friends that could do with that hopeful energy I so desperately needed myself before. Somehow, as if by magic, I felt that I set something in motion just by being present, by allowing my thoughts to be filled with nothing but hope.
So often we forget to simply ask how a person is feeling, how they’re doing, and more importantly, what we can do to make them a little better. Can we save the world on our own? No. Probably not. Can we save people from their own fate? No. Probably not. But can we make them feel better? Well, I’d sure like to think that we can try.