Words from the El Camino, from the heart of a friend on the journey of her lifetime, echo in my heart and soul. They force a contemplation that hasn’t been in the forefront of my thoughts. It’s funny how someone else’s pilgrimage can have such an impact on your own internal expedition. And, if someone can do that for you, if someone’s mere words can force a shift in a long ingrained thought process, can’t you be the catalyst for someone else? Let’s explore the Common Denominator of all humanity, shall we?
As I’ve written, I’ve been in a weird place in the last weeks, I’m trying to figure out some pretty ridiculous, yet pretty hefty life scenarios. In my mind there is chaos. A nuclear fallout, a self identity crisis, if you will.
I’m filled with endless yearning. I’m an adventurer, and I think that the adventurer in me will never be satisfied. At the ripe old age of 40-something I’m finally understanding the phrase, “You can’t have your cake and eat it to.” And, truth be told, I’m kinda pissed about it.
There are so many things I want to be and do. I want to be a farmer and have abundant lands and grow my own food in the mountains, by the beach where it snows in the winter, and the powder is great, but I can walk down the street and go surfing on a whim at the beach or in the river. I also want to travel with my entire family all over the globe and have money grow on trees that I plant in my gardens.
Seriously, how does one choose their path in life when every path is so admirable and enticing? This must be a mid-life crisis, but I’m not mid-life yet. I absolutely refuse to die in my 80’s. But in order to live well past 120 I know I need to learn to just live, to just breathe, but the question is … how?
My dreams are fluid, they are ever changing and I want it all. This restlessness is exhausting.
And no, I’m not writing this blog as if a journal entry, I’m trying to set it up in direct contrast to my tumultuous soul. Bear with me, it WILL all come together, I promise! (I hope).
The point of my ramblings is actually about empathy. It’s about slamming the concept of diversity and turning it on it’s head in preference to commonality. What do we all have in common as humans? How can we all actually coexist.
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“It’s been nice to check out of the goings-on in the states. I only find out what’s happening through fb. Here, everyone respects and trusts each other. It’s beautiful. And the Kiwi’s just invited me to have curry with them in the kitchen “ A.H., on the el Camino
This was written on FB by a friend who left the States on 6 October to hike the el Camino.
I commented on her post, I said, “Errday. We checked out long ago and it’s a beautiful, if not somewhat isolated state, not perfect, but I’m not going back either…I miss you, friend. Praying daily that your soul is nourished. Xoxoxoxo”
Immediately after I posted, I thought, “Oh shit. This post is about her, this journey she’s on is ALL about her, I intruded with my…self.” Empathetic, yet solely focused on me. But, that’s human nature isn’t it? I mean, look how I started this blog … All. About. Me.
Now, her post, my subsequent comment, and my mid-life craziness made me pause. I delved deeper into the meaning of her post.
I started contemplating how we as humans are selfish, we are needy, we are self-focused. We are in the throes of our own lives and our lives are difficult. It doesn’t matter who you are, you have your own struggles, and those seem, at times, to be insurmountable.
So cynically and predictably, my first reaction to the post was, “of course everyone trusts and respects each other. I mean they are all away from jobs, work, the daily grind, responsibility, stress, financial obligations, etc. Psssh, no kidding, everyone is all kind and generous.”
But, no. That thought process is THE problem. It is the BIGGEST problem we have as humanity. You gotta know, comparison is a joy stealer! We compare and rate struggle. We do it, the government does it, churches do it, we all do it. Those struggles that are deemed worthy are given priority over those that aren’t. Some struggles are idolized while others are spit at.
For instance, being an illegal immigrant is a golden struggle in this country. In so many eyes, this cause, this struggle, is tantamount to others. This struggle is deemed more worthy, than say, my restlessness or even the struggle of the homeless. The latter is met with disdain and the general thought that they put themselves in that position. As a result, the homeless are a nuisance to the cities they choose to hunker down in, while the illegal immigrants find refuge and asylum across the country.
Of course we all are responsible for our own decisions, and we have to deal with all the direct and indirect results of our decisions. As is the case with everyone on the planet. Hence, struggle and suffering are abundant. If nothing else, this is the common denominator of humanity. You know the saying, “You don’t get out of here unscathed.” So much truth.
Those that are on the El Camino are struggling too. They are suffering physically, mentally and some even, spiritually. And they trust and respect each other because they understand, they are empathetic to their fellow pilgrim. They, too, are alone, physically and emotionally expended, spiritually raw. Each of them looks around and sees the same in their fellow trekkers faces, body language, etc. They know and can relate.
So, what if, bare with me here, what if we all looked at each other the same way. As fellow pilgrims in this life journey. What if we, like those on the Camino de Santiago, communed over dinner. What if we wrapped our arms around our neighbors and let them know we empathize with everything they are experiencing. We just acknowledge their struggles with empathy. And, we do so without rating the degree of suffering.
I mean, as a mom I do this all day long with my kids. In fact, as a mom I believe I feel my kids suffering more than they do. I take it harder.
As husband and wife, Dan and I do this with each other. Never has Dan ever once said anything like “Woman, you don’t know stress until you’ve had to be 100% responsible for 13 other people.”
And never have I said to Dan, “Pssssh, you think you know pain? I’ve had 12 kids. Man up.”
The hierarchy of suffering isn’t necessary, empathy is.
So, what if we just made that conscious decision to simply love each other?
How about we truly respect and trust each other for no other reason than our own common humanity? To offer nothing less than understanding and support. It can’t really be that hard, can it?
You know, there has been such a push to celebrate diversity. It seems we are being held at gunpoint and demands being made that we see and acknowledge all that makes us different. Shoot even our local parish has bought into it and every August there is the St Stephen’s Festival of Diversity.
Forgive me, but diversity seems to be a failed experiment, doesn’t it? I mean it’s beautiful that we are all so different, but focusing solely on our differences serves to only divide, separate, and segregate us.
In fact, we went to an All Saints Day mass and afterward there was a potluck dinner. Here we were introduced and encouraged to sit with people we did not know. We sat at our own table because of our numbers, but soon members of the hispanic community were sitting with us.
You know what we talked about? Our children, our faith, our families, our love of our community. Endless discussion ensued about how much we missed our older children who were beginning their own lives. We talked of the struggles of living in such a high cost of living locale. New friends were made that night over the subject of education and large families and how blessed we are …
No diversity brought us together. No diversity bound us to each other that day … it was all commonality.
Compassion, Empathy, Love, Understanding…
You know we are all the same. The struggles and triumphs, love and loss, pain and joy, none of this is new or specific to any one person or group of people.
With this in mind, we should realize that we are all in this life together. Much like the El Camino Pilgrims, we are simply Pilgrims on the journey of life.
Maybe that sounds cheesy, but it’s the absolute truth. The panhandler on the corner, he has a story. The elderly woman in the nursing home, with no visitors, she has a story. The young mom, the angry driver, the teen, the firefighter, your impossible neighbor, the used car salesman, the UPS guy, your kids teacher, your Priest … everyone has a story and when you learn it, you realize how human they are, how vulnerable, how beautiful and how similar they are to you.
In a perfect world, color, religion, ethnicity, it wouldn’t matter. Humanity is what matters. The word love has been through hell and back, but the action, the reality of what love is remains true and stronger than ever. If you love, you sacrifice. I can’t tell you how frustrated I get when I hear the words, “I love you,” with no action to back it up. The word has profound meaning that only comes to life with profound action behind it.
Love means putting your needs behind those of others. By loving others your story becomes relevant. Love is what makes the stories of others relevant. Oh! Love conjurs flows of JOY from deep within you. Trust and Respect are automatic. All because humanity. Because people matter.
When you start with trust and respect, love and compassion are sure to follow.
So why not, invite the pilgrims in your circle for some curry in your kitchen? Why not tell the mom of the screaming toddlers how adorable and precious her kids are? Visit a nursing home. Offer a homeless person a warm meal, a hot shower and a roof over their head for a night or two in a local hotel. How bout we put some action behind the words and just DO love.