img_4230_2By Nina Swanson, Guest Blogger


 I just took the scallop shell off of my backpack.  I took it off for practical purposes — it got stuck in the rollers of the x-ray machine here at the airport — but I had to take a deep breath before untying it.  I thought, if I take off the scallop shell — the symbol of the Camino — does that mean I´m not a pilgrim anymore?

          I have been floored by the generosity of those who live and work along the Camino. All of us in our group have had someone redirect us when we strayed from the path, gotten a little extra bocadito at a cafe, had hundreds of well-wishers encourage us along with a warm, “Buen camino!” and, “Que Dios te bendiga.” May God bless you. One woman blew me kisses.
          Do they do that with each other, too?  Are they that gentle, that warm?  Probably not. We pilgrims “earned it” because we were on the Camino.  The scallop shell on my backpack proved that I was on a Pilgrimage, and that I was doing some Spiritual Heavylifting.  Of course I needed their blessings, and that little extra bite of potatoes or ham and cheese.
          And now?  Now that I have to go back to my everyday life and put all of these lessons into practice … now what?  I won´t have my scallop shell displayed on my backpack anymore, and it won´t be on my briefcase at work, either.  But now is exactly when I need that extra encouragement, when I need those blessings.  Walking 102 kilometers seems like a piece of cake compared to actually having to live a spiritual life in the real world!
          What if we treated each other like we knew those around us were also on a journey?  Also doing some Spiritual Heavylifting?  And you know they are, because everyone is.  The person next to you might have depression or be going through a mid-life crisis.  He might be struggling with a damaged relationship with his son, or she might be trying to find her true calling.
          So, I´m taking off my scallop shell, but I still need you to be gentle with me, to give me words of encouragement.  And I´ll do the same for you.  You may not ever have literally borne this badge of a pilgrimage, but I know you´re on one, too.
          Buen camino, y que Dios te bendiga.