The Camino is an experience that, no matter how hard you try, is indescribable. This really frustrated me last year because I felt so inept trying to explain the thing I had just done; there are no words that are able to fully capture it. While on the Camino this year, Alissa and I talked to a man named Mark for a while. He had a friend do the Camino a couple years ago. When his friend came back, he was unable to explain what he had just done. Mark said that he became frustrated because he thought his friend was trying to hide something from him, but in the end decided he had to do the Camino himself to see what it was all about. That was last summer, and he had come back to hike again because there really is something about the Camino that you cannot find anywhere else.
As I began to think about my transition home, I had to accept the fact that many people will not understand why I am so in love with hiking across mountains with blister-covered feet, meeting strangers and becoming family. It's not easy, because I want everyone to love the Camino just as much as I do...but that is not reality. In fact, this makes me even more grateful for those of you who have given me so much support through the process. The support I have received in many different areas is mind-blowing. I recognize that it is not a traditional missions trip. But I do want to tell you that God is working, moving and changing hearts. While it may not be feeding orphans or giving life-saving medicine to the sick, people on the Camino are fed, encouraged, and given care by the people you have sent. (I have yet to pop someone else's blisters, but I'll get there.) So I want to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU once more. This isn't just my story, it's yours too.
So what now?!
As I'm sure you've gathered from previous posts and pictures, our group grew a bit while on the Camino. I have received Skype calls and many messages since returning to the States, and it's amazing. These are not relationships that will quickly fade, they are only beginning. (And let me take this moment to say thank you to Google Translate...you're a life saver.) I am so excited to see where these relationships will go, as we continue to journey even in our "normal" lives all over the world.
The Camino teaches so much. ((You should definitely take a moment and look two of Alissa's Camino follow ups here and here! They're great.)) For me personally, one of my biggest initial takeaways is that the Camino is really an example of how I should live my life each and every day. First I had to bridge the cultural gap between the cultures I had just experienced and here. In Portugal, and especially on the Camino, you greet everyone you pass. Everyone is so friendly (of course there may be a few exceptions to this rule, but you get my point.) Since being home, I had greeted a few people that I passed on the sidewalk or in a store, and the reactions I got were not the most pleasant. However, my favorite reactions are when people don't actually know what to do or say.
I was in Verizon earlier this week because I had a few questions about our phone plan. The guys in the store informed me that they couldn't answer my question, but were very helpful and gave me the number I needed to call to solve my issue. Now, I'm pretty sure the only time people every go into those stores is when they have complaints. So when the guy came over to tell me he couldn't help, he almost braced himself, as if I were going to throw a tantrum. However, I was grateful for the help they could give me, thanked them, and left. I'm not kidding when I say that he shot a glance at the other guy in the store, like he couldn't believe I wasn't upset.
Those are the types of scenarios in which we all have a choice: treat the person as we would want to be treated, or be the epitome of an American consumerist and care more about our problem than the other person. (I'm not saying this only happens in America, but you get my point.) The Camino teaches me more and more that every person has a story. Sometimes it's a really painful story; other times it's full of joy. Either way, we are all journeying through life. I want to choose to be a pilgrim and a person who brightens people's days and is encouraging, rather than being the angry customer who ruined the cashier's day.
On the Camino, I don't walk around offering to carry the backpacks of people around me. I have my own. It is, however, an amazing opportunity for me to walk alongside them for a while, take their mind off the pain, help them process, eat a meal with them, and encourage them. So goes life. We can't always take emotional baggage from people. Each person has to work through their own issues, as do we with our own. But I believe it is our job as Christians to be different than those around us. Pay for someone else's coffee, be devoted to walking alongside a friend in need, cook a meal for a struggling family. We each have our own part to play. When we all come together, it is our differences, our stories, and our individuality that makes the whole picture beautiful. This was so evident to me through our family dinners on the Camino. At times, there were 4 different languages being spoken at the same table. It was a little chaotic, a bit crowded, but overwhelmingly beautiful.
I need to stop walking with my head down, worried about my footing for the next steps ahead, and be able to look up, see, and experience all the people around me. I never would've met the people who sat at our table had I not talked to a stranger who needed some help, or attempted to talk to someone with which we had no language in common. Those are the beautiful, awkward moments that turn into big memories.
|(I know this is a repeat picture, but it just doesn't get old for me).|
(I also want to give a huge shout of THANKS to my family and friends, who are so incredibly supportive as I continue to process through where the Camino fits into my life long-term. I love you all and no matter where I end up, with you will always be home.)
The summer is only beginning, and there are big things on the horizon.