In June 2014, I had the most amazing opportunity to go to Spain and walk the Camino de Santiago. This walk is one of the pilgrimage routes, or pilgrim ways, to the shrine of the apostle James in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.
The journey was a spiritual pilgrimage for me and I travelled alone, walking 750 km in 33 days. It was an amazing journey and one of the most demanding things I have ever done.
On this journey, I learnt some challenging life-lessons that changed my approach to the world and my journey with others.
While I walked alone, much of the time there were many others walking the same route. Some people joined me at different times and, when things became really difficult, their companionship, and the sharing of experiences, made the journey easier.
On one particularly hard day, I met a South African woman who was struggling. Her feet were sore and her muscles were tight.
She was walking at the same slow pace as me, so we walked together. At the end of the day, we both commented about how much easier it was to walk when we talked and so took our minds off the pain.
On this day of my Camino walk, I was reminded of the passage from the Bible where two men were walking on the road to Emmaus. They were feeling disheartened, as they had just witnessed the death of their close friend and teacher Jesus.
But they were unaware that Jesus had risen from the dead. As they walked, they were joined by someone they thought was a stranger, who talked with them and comforted them.
After he left them, they realised that it was Jesus who had journeyed with them and they said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts filled with joy when he talked to us on the road about what he said?’ (Luke chapter 24, verse 32).
As we walk through life with others, there is a sense that it, too, is a sacred journey. We share the journey with others, sometimes only for a short period of time. We share in their lives, their struggles, their pain, their joys—and they in ours—and can offer and receive comfort, support and hope.
On my Camino pilgrimage I never knew who would cross my path each day. Each encounter was sacred for me and I met some amazing people who openly shared their own stories.
It is the same with those who cross our paths each day and share their lives with us.