As they say, time flies when you are having fun – and this week has been no exception as we found ourselves doing our final cheers in A Painza last night in shock that Santiago was only a day away. While this trip has been different in many respects in terms of our organization, types of lodging and elaborate meals – I was amazed last night at the level of impact this walk has had on its pilgrims, or “Pilgrim Producers” as we like to say.
I continue to grimace when someone looks down with judgment at those who have not walked “all the way from France”, or at those who have skipped a section, or at those who have went a slightly less popular route. The Camino is the ultimate metaphor for real life and who are we to judge the paths of others? I say this as I am guilty – looking at those who would hop out of a bus as I slowly tredged by during my first walk. I thought to myself “ugh they are cheating”, but now as I look back I had no idea what their stories might have been.
My own group, defined by a diversity of physical capabilities, has a ‘girlfriend crew’ of many that are 76 years of age. Some of them have been able to walk every last kilometer, and some of them not. I would rather have them here experiencing a bit of the Camino, versus none at all. When I think of them I think of the many hospitaleros who have never walked the Camino, yet play an integral role as well. We don’t judge them, instead we see them for what they are – the same what we should do for those who might be walking in a style unlike our own.
As I walk with some of my 76-year old friends today into Santiago, I eagerly anticipate the joy and emotion that I had on my own first entry into this city that I now call home. Some of them will not earn their Compostela but they walk down from Monte de Gozo just the same, many of them accomplishing much more than I can even hope to dream of forty years from now when I am the same age.
So what is the lesson here? That as we walk by pilgrims that may be doing it different than us to smile just the same! They are part of our pilgrim family. And that same smile is what we hopefully carry with us back home as we cross paths with people from all different walks of life, who are also on our same path of life – just walking through it with a different set of circumstances.
When I sat down to our first group dinner in Leon I could not have imagined the connections that have been built over this almost two week journey, but the Camino has that magic way of erasing our differences as we walk alongside together – and this Camino, with its combination of walking, buses and vans has been no exception.
Let go of judgement and focus on our individual Caminos, while supporting others in theirs. Buen Camino!