A little over a year ago I made a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compestella, walking the Coastal Route with people I had not me before. It was two weeks of community, and it seems to me after this election when the nation seems so divided, there are some things from that journey that may be helpful to remind myself, and perhaps you as well.
So, for what it is worth.
Lesson Number One- It is Never What You Expected. You read, you listen to others, you look at the pictures and the brochures, you watch the videos, but the truth is every Camino is unique and has its own twists, turns, complications, joys and setbacks along the way. No matter what you may have “expected” from this election, just know that no journey ever turns out to be exactly what you expect.
Lesson Number Two- You will think that you are ready, but you are not. I had confidence in my training, in my equipment, in the shoes (that I had spent months breaking in to assure that I would not have problems!) I had hiked before, backpacked, and camped. If figured I would have no problems. I blistered. I ached. I had not walked enough, or far enough, or for enough hours on end to prepare me for what would lie ahead. I scarred. I endured. I pushed through. I took the respite when it was possible and gritted through when I had to. It is what you do. No matter where you are politically, recognize that there will be things about this election for which you were not ready, and that even in the midst of that, you can endure. Much of the Camino was spent with me saying under my breath, “One foot in front of another, find a rhythm, set a pace…” Once you find a way to move forward, the rest falls into place.
Lesson Number Three—Revel in the small. If you walk always with your eyes only on your destination, you will miss what is unfolding around you. Notice the tokens along the way. See the cross of sticks woven into the fence where someone stopped to do penance or to pray. Notice a stone left on top of a marker that marks something that someone has carried and now put down, a charm laying at the foot of a marker. See the basket of apples set outside an orchard marked “For the Perrigrino.” Recognize that some have walked this way before you, and that some are caring about you though they don’t know you, and that burdens have been laid down that have been carried for lifetimes and kilometers. No matter your political persuasion, look for the signs along the way of the world shifting, changing, moving, old things being let go of and new things being provided for you.
Lesson Number Four—Shared experience is more powerful that positions, philosophies or ideals. When one walks with others, conversation is all you have, and you might think that arguments would be frequent. After all, we’re tired, hot, grumpy and our feet hurt – why not gripe? But in truth, the shared experience of needing to care and help one another outweighs any of our petty political, social or even religious differences. The shared experience of the journey to a destination that is the same but different for each of us teaches us to respect each other’s journey. So, I can light candles with my Roman Catholic pilgrims in the small chapels along the way with them, not for the same reason, but because the experience we share is more than the sum of our belief systems and we do this for and with one another. So much of our “election journey” right now focused on red/blue, win/lose, elections have consequences/loss of influence. It is hard to remember that we are in a Democracy together, and that the goal of the democratic process is to journey toward “a more perfect union”… not an imposition of beliefs. Revel in the largest voter turn out in decades. Trust in and insist on the counting of every vote, not to determine who wins, but to safeguard this experience we have, this privilege of the journey of Democracy. Accept the outcome, congratulate the opponent, learn from the experience, work to make it one that we can all take together.
Buen Camino, United States of America.