Guest post from Jason:
We were sitting outside a cafe, and I had a familiar experience. A young man walked up to us seeking to sell some handcrafts. We were clearly out of place, foreigners visiting this area – and a good opportunity for a sale. I felt similar feelings visiting majority world cities in the past: compassion for the person clearly working to alleviate his family’s poverty – and also a subtle resistance to being “targeted” for a sale. This time was different, though. We told him, “We told him, “estamos peregrinos.” (We are pilgrims). The man smiled, laughed, and walked away with a light heart. He understood that pilgrims, wherever they come from, are on a long journey and must travel light. Pilgrims do not have the option of consumerism, because walking is our only priority. We travel light and live simply in very concrete, literal ways. After that interaction, I was deeply encouraged from the experience of being understood.
I also found myself wishing for better ways, or traditions, of sharing the pilgrim identity as followers of Jesus. How helpful it would be to have clearer expressions of our commitments to simplicity, solidarity and faith on the journey of faith! We would be better able to encourage one another along the way, and also to answer the constant call of our culture to follow its own ways.
I have also been grateful for the little society of peregrinos with whom we walk and stay each day. We don’t always walk or stay with the same people day by day, because we move at different paces and distances. But we make friends nonetheless. There is something wonderful about staying in albergues (pilgrim hostels) each night. We come from many different nations and cultures, and many points of view on important things of life – but we clearly trust one another. We sleep in dorm rooms of 8-30 people (so far), and share showers and toilets (yes, with some privacy). We leave all our earthly possessions in one another’a care, and we consistently share our own food and first aid supplies.
Susi and I made a particularly strong bond with this enthusiastic group from Valencia, Spain. Why do we trust one another and live in community like this? Because we share a common purpose, which forms a common way of life. Our disciplines and attitudes are shaped by our common commitment to complete this crazy walk across Spain.
Again, I am drawn to reflect on the journey of Christian discipleship. What if our common commitment to follow Jesus on the way of the cross led us to shared disciplines this concrete? What if it produced the kind of trust for one another where we could share everything freely and engage our differences with civility and hope? What if we radically streamlined our lives for the sake of our journey? I do see elements of these things in Christian community but I long to see them in gritty detail, as I do in the sights and sounds and smells of the Camino.