“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever…”
Life can be a strange ole puzzle to crack at times. Just when we’re on the cusp of making sense of it all, events can conspire to leave us clasping for clarity all over again. No man’s land can be a desolate place. We’re caught between conflicting forces struggling to make our way in a world that has lost its familiarity. It’s hard to make it through unscathed. There will be times when we’re really tested. It is then we can feel most alone. Barren places often bring us back to where we belong. As the mist lifts, we come face to face with the truth about ourselves. All that once was is seen with new eyes. Trust your path. You have arrived at this point for a reason.
There is a spark in each of us that tends to kick in when the pressure is on. We see it every day in the stoic courage of ordinary people dealing with crushing blows in life who somehow find the strength to hang in there when they’d have every reason to give up. These people show us the way. Just look at the heroism of people who have put their own lives at risk to protect and care for others over the past year. Doctors, nurses, labourers, teachers, shop assistants, neighbours… you name it, good has been unleashed into the world just when we needed it most. Human kindness is the life force that has carried us through. It is this we need to hold on to as we come out the other side.
Our destinies are not mapped out for us in advance. It is now we shape the course of what is yet to come. Listen to your inner voice and map your goals accordingly. No matter how tough it has been, dare to believe again as if your life depended on it. The way ahead will be shaped by your attitude. Channel your energies into discovering what makes your life worth living. If there’s something in you that you have always wanted to do, make it happen. Do not wait. Resist doubt at all costs for despair is a luxury none of us can afford. The purpose of life is a life of purpose. When you passionately believe in something that doesn’t exist, create it. It starts with one single step.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
you must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive…
A light rises through the shadows to guide us on our way. We cannot do it on our own. It pays to stay grounded and humble. Often the voice of the silent one needs to be listened to most. The raw, broken story of people who have endured real pain in life lies beyond the lens of social media. Real prophets speak their truth quietly. They have a dignity that lingers long after their last note is struck. You see it in their smile, in their tenderness, in their stoic courage. Above all you see it in their humour. They find something so strong inside!
I am slowly realising that we cannot come to know the people on the margins from a safe distance. Walking alongside the homeless has led me to a new place. Here I have discovered the indivisible union between me and those singing before me. We are one. Maybe it’s that I know only too well what it feels like to be broken, to lose everything, to slip up, to fall short… only when we come to know the homeless as friends, when we share the most precious gift of all, our time, with them, do we come to see in them the reflection of our truest selves.
Everyone has a story to tell. It pays to listen, to make time, to be there… to open the pores of our humanity to the needs of others. There are many out there with burdens to carry far greater than you can ever imagine. Beneath the surface lies a decency that the eye may not always see. As the world walks by, slow you cadence a little and you will hear. We are all shaped by what has happened to us in life. Our flawed note completes our song rather than takes from it.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
you must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth…
Make time for people along the way but be discerning. Your time is precious. Gravitate to those who do not act for show. The world is full of pretense. What is real is all that matters. The rest is froth. There are certain things that we should never sell out on. Dignity doesn’t just mean being stiff and composed. It means a belief in oneself, that one is worthy of the best. Dignity means that what I have to say is important, and I will say it when it’s important for me to say it. Dignity really means that I deserve the best treatment I can receive. And that I have the responsibility to give the best treatment I can to other people.
Ultimately, you and you alone can shape the course of what is to come. Believe in yourself even when storm clouds gather and the way is not so clear. Strive to be the best version of you, complete with all your strengths and limitations. For always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. The peace we seek along the way doesn’t come from superiority and might. It flows from the deepest, most vulnerable part of our being, that unmistakable core within that makes us unique. So do not be denied your rightful place in the universe.
When you show vulnerability, you give others permission to do the same. Vulnerability is not weakness; it is our most accurate measurement of courage. This truth once discovered changes everything. Your hour of uncertainty creates an opening for the light to shine through. The storm clouds part and the landscape, though somewhat tinged by pain, glows with a hue you may have never noticed before. No bird soars too high if she soars with her own wings, no matter how broken they may be.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”
(Naomi Shihab Nye)
Phil and Elaine are happy to wait until this uncertainty passes before we roll out our signature Irish Camino Experience in the year ahead. We’ll rise again when it is safe to do so. Check out our range of Camino offerings on www.waterfordcamino.com and if you have any specific inquiries email Phil and Elaine directly at firstname.lastname@example.org