As our year begins its slow fadeout, I like to take a moment of thankful reflection for all that has transpired over 2022. My family is healthy and happy. Life on the road has resumed at full strength following two years of being mostly grounded. And, I’ve picked up a few new hobbies that bring me great joy. But this isn’t to say the year was all rosy.
A stress fracture of the left foot had grounded me from a daily exercise routine I worked hard to build over the year. Traveling with the extra hassle of the boot required that I wait for wheelchairs and deal with the pain on the opposite hip caused by an uneven limping walk. I have several friends who require a wheelchair for life in order to be mobile and I thought of them daily as I struggled to do the simplest tasks knowing they have faced so much more. My job requirement is to arrive with energy, focus, and joy when I speak in front of a crowd, and that’s hard when all the energy is going to healing and figuring out how to get myself to the next stop. I’m extremely grateful to the clients who showed such grace when, immediately following the injury, my performance on the platform couldn’t be as robust as usual. I’m thankful to work for such amazing humans.
My special story for this Thanksgiving comes from the action of a friend that impacted me profoundly. Meet Terri Langhans and her best friend Donna. They decided to “Walk the Camino” for a third time. In case you aren’t familiar with this journey, it is a network of trails across Europe with all routes leading to Santiago de Compostela, in northern Spain. The most popular route is the 500-mile “French Way,” starting at the foot of the Pyrennes in France. Four years ago, Terri and Donna walked 300 miles starting from Burgos, Spain. This time, they tackled Pyrennes and set out to complete the whole 500 mile trail. They mapped out walking 12-18 miles a day. Every day. For 35 days in a row.
Being a person who struggles with foot issues, this personal challenge is one I could never consider, so I vicariously enjoyed it through Terri’s blog posts. She shared what they saw, who they met, and some of the thoughts that occurred to her while she walked…and walked…and walked. Terri is blessed with a wicked sense of humor, profound thought-processing, and an amazing writing skill. I’m hoping her blog turns into a book because their actions along the trailer can have a real impact on people.
For example, this time they took a handful of seashells with them in their pockets. (The scallop shell is a symbol of the Camino, and one dangles from almost every back pack.) Each of the little shells had a person’s name written inside, and whenever they came across a meaningful location related to one of the people named on a shell, Terri or Donna would say a prayer for that friend, and leave the shell behind. How cool is that?
Fast forward to the end of the walk. No matter where you start your Camino, everyone’s walk culminates in front of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestella.
Turns out that Terri was still carrying “my shell,” the one with my name in it, when she walked into Santiago. She sent me this text the next day:
I carried your shell the whole way and was tempted to leave it in a cornfield, you being the farmer’s daughter and all. But I know your feet have to rest right now, so I figured if I carried your shell 500 miles, some of that strength and joy will come your way and you’ll be back walking your own version of a Camino soon. I left the shell on the Cathedral itself, tucked away in the corner of a pillar with a giant shell engraving. Who knows how long it may hide there? Thank you for all you do and for being such a great friend.
I’ve experienced a lot of kind gestures from friends over the years but I gotta say, this one ranks right up there at the top. The note came on a day when I needed a splash of joy. To know that I got to “ride in her pocket” for 500 miles and land in a spot that is so amazing is really special.
Who needs to be carried in your pocket?
Each year about this time, I choose a theme to live by for the following year. Well actually, it usually chooses me. As I share this story, it occurs to me that “Carrying You in My Pocket” would make a great theme for 2023. I’ve decided to select 52 people and place their names on a small item and carry them along for a week looking for just the right spot to place them, and then send them a note and picture to explain this—just like Terri did for me. Who knows, maybe my note will end up in their inbox on a day when they need it the most, too.
If you want to read more about Terri’s trek, visit her blog at www.terrilanghans.com.