Far from Normal

June 21, 2008 -Day 19 Complete, 25 km

“It’s normal.”

For my friends along the Camino, Manuela and Paco, it’s normal to take an American they’ve only known for a few days and sit with her at the medic.
It’s normal for them to be concerned and encourage me to seek help for my blisters.
It’s normal to wait in a hot, stifling waiting room.
It’s normal to translate from Spanish to English for me so I can understand the care needed for my feet.
It’s normal to keep talking with me and get me laughing to forget about the pain.
It’s normal to walk 6 km during the heat of the day since the visit with the medic took longer than expected.

Manuela says to me, “We all go to Santiago together.”

This is normal. This is normal along the Way. Normal for a community that is bound only by the chance encounter that we’re all walking towards Santiago. This is normal. This is hospitality. This is grace.

This is a normal I’d like to remember.

June 21, 2018 - Far from Normal

This type of normal seems so far off some days. I hear the news and feel discouraged. I wonder how it can be our normal to live with such violence on a day-to-day basis. I wonder why it’s normal to no longer be surprised by what we hear.

It should not be normal to fear what school safety will be like for my children.
It should not be normal to wonder about the real possibility of nuclear war.
It should not be normal to see families torn apart.
It should not be normal to have such divisiveness in our government.
And the longer I think about what has become our new normal, I fall farther and farther away from the normal I experienced on the Camino.

I desperately want to see hope. I want to see the glimmers of a different way of living - one free from fear. Yet on some days the glimmer feels so far away.

Until I remember my friends from the Camino.

My friends from the camino, two Spaniards, didn’t have to help me. We barely knew each other. We barely communicated with words - each only able to speak in our native tongue. Over and over during the days I walked with them I kept telling them, “You can go on ahead of me. You don’t have to help me. I'll be fine.”

The truth was, however, I needed them.

I needed their support. I needed their compassion. I needed their companionship. And all I could think about was how little they needed me. I slowed them down. I extended their journey. I tried not to whine but my feet hurt. Why in the world did these newfound friends help me.

Because it’s normal.
Because that’s the way of The Way.

A way dependent on not what we have to offer but for who we are - fellow travelers in this world. My friends helped me to let go. To be present. To accept help. To accept grace.

To really believe what I proclaimed about God’s grace - to believe it enough to know it was for me, too.

That grace is the way - for all of us.

Following this grace along the way looks like welcoming strangers to our tables.
Following this grace along the way smells like fresh baked bread given to someone just because.
Following this grace along the way tastes like a summer tomato shared with another.
Following this grace feels like an outstretched hand reaching out to us. Over and over again.
Following this grace along the way looks like the life of Jesus - one of selfless giving, one of love for the outcast, one of expanding tables and food for all, one of bread and wine overflowing, one of grace upon grace.

This is the normal I’d like to show my kids.
This is the normal that lies within us all.
This is the normal that says to us: We are all in this together.

**This is part of a series of blog posts reflecting on my time walking the Camino de Santiago in 2008. Throughout the next month (the 33 days it took me to walk 500 miles), I’ll share excerpts from my journal written during my walk as well as the lessons that continue to guide me. Thanks for joining me on this journey!