In watching the documentary trailer, I couldn’t help but admire the courage of each and every one of those pilgrims. I imagine that each of us defines courage in our own way, but to me, it reveals itself in the many small decisions that it took to get to that Camino. To even hear the call of the Camino requires great courage, for to hear the call signifies that you have heard your soul’s yearning to grow and that you are prepared to follow it. To overcome the well-intentioned warnings and fears of those closest to you, and continue anyway, shows that your heart is open and ready to explore. To take that first step is to trust that all will be well, despite the many unknowns that lie ahead. To keep walking, step by step, when you are weary on all levels, reveals the beauty and grace of your personal courage.
I believe that the Camino, from a place of deep, unconditional Love, calls on us to confront our fears and demons, and to find the strength and courage to move forward not only on this path, but in life. Perhaps that is why it is called “The Way of the Sword.” It whispers. It nudges. It invites. That was certainly my experience. The grand majority of my fears back then could be summarized as the fear of standing out or doing anything that would call attention. I worried more than I should about the opinion of others and, although it was difficult to admit, realized that I needed their approval. The Camino revealed this fear to me in the most innocuous manner.
Day after day, I watched with disgust the amount of garbage that littered the path, and indignantly condemned the little respect some pilgrims were showing for it. I thought of picking up the garbage myself, but what would people think if they saw me doing that? I tried to ignore the problem, but it seemed to dog me no matter where I went. I finally decided to do something. I tucked a small plastic bag in the outer pocket of my backpack and began to walk. When I saw a discarded soda can, I stopped and looked around. When I was certain no other pilgrims were in sight, I picked up the can or the empty bag of chips and placed them in my bag. I kept walking, picking up garbage in secret, feeling proud of myself for my small triumph but, at the same time, ashamed. Here was the Camino offering me so much, and I didn’t even have the courage to publicly demonstrate my gratitude. The Camino was offering me yet another lesson, yet another opportunity, to overcome my fear.
During my walk the next day, I picked up a few empty water bottles in plain sight of some passing pilgrims. They didn’t say anything. What’s more, they didn’t even seem to appreciate the magnitude of what was happening. I began to wonder: Could this debilitating fear be nothing more than an obsession that was mine alone—an erroneous perspective on life—that had nothing to do with anyone else? The thought inspired me and gave me even more courage to pick up garbage in front of more people. Still no one was paying me the least bit of attention. I began to openly pick up garbage whenever I found it, without thinking or worrying about who may be watching me. Then, the most amazing thing happened: I began to see a few pilgrims with small plastic bags picking up garbage along the way.
I would never forget the lesson taught me on that Camino. When I finally found the courage to change, the courage to honor my values and live them truthfully, I was able to influence the world around me. That revelation would inspire me to embark on another pilgrimage, this time from Rome to Jerusalem, for peace.
May you all find the courage to keep walking. Buen Camino to all.
Pilgrim Mony Dojeiji
Completed first Camino in 2001 Mony Dojeiji is a pilgrim who walked the Camino Francés in 2001 and later that year embarked on a 5000-kilometer, 13-country, 13-month walk for peace with fellow Spanish pilgrim Alberto Agraso. Details of their journey can be found on their website http://walkingforpeace.com.