In my summary blog of the things I learned while walking the Way of St. James (June 17, 2013), the second insight was, “One people; many paths; one destination.” This insight was able to come to light in me, I believe, because I stepped beyond the normal comfort and familiarity of my day-to-day life. I had the vague notion that all people are one people because of my cultural and religious heritage, but I did not learn—or maybe even believe—the truth of the matter until I walked with people from many different nations and cultures for 40 days.
During the first 7 days of our pilgrimage, we met people from 21 nations and 13 US states. In the space of about an hour one morning, we greeted two young people from Japan, a couple from Slovenia, three young women walking together from Bogota, Vienna and Boston (they had met a few days before and were already old friends) and two middle-aged men traveling together for the day—one from Birmingham, England; the other from Richmond, Texas.
Over time, I gave up trying to keep track of where people came from; they came from everywhere. As we talked with others, we never encountered anyone who had an opinion about the way we were walking the journey. Nor did they second-guess our reasons. Everyone had a personal reason for being on the journey; and each had a personal way of traveling. Our commonality was our willingness to encourage one another and to accept individual differences.
What became clear was that even though we had a unique way of making the trek, we were all on the same journey and all headed to the same destination. The Way is the perfect metaphor for life. We are all sharing a human experience, and we have our own approach to living out that experience. Yet we are all headed to a common destination. And even though we might not be able to agree on what that destination should be named—Paradise, Nirvana, Heaven or the Void—we all share the same name: Pilgrim.