I don’t know what you have been doing since Christmas day but according to the press families across the country have been in front of their computers and on the internet attempting to stave off the post Christmas blues by booking their summer holiday. By the amount of holiday literature through my letter box in the last few days the travel industry clearly believes this is an opportunity. Amongst the leaflets I had information on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
In 2011 our family holiday was walking 200km of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, also known in English, as the Way of St James for our holiday. The route runs in north-west Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia where the apostle St James is said to have been laid to rest. It has been a pilgrimage since medieval times but many walk for pleasure as we did (although at the time I had to keep reminding myself that it was for pleasure we were walking!). It is the nature of long distance walks that you have time to encounter people and to exchange stories along the way. It became apparent along the way that many were walking to find themselves – to rediscover who they are or the person they seemed to have lost in the business of life. It also interested me that there were also those who left something of themselves along the way. At points along the way, often under the characteristic sign of the shell, people left something of themselves, comments, shoes, pictures, sun glasses, items which were an expression of their need for others to have known that they have past that way – to leave their mark on the way.
Roads are good places to understand who you are and who others are.
As we face the changing of another year it is natural that we find ourselves reflecting on our journey who we are and what are we leaving on the way?
So often we want to leave a legacy which is about the material – just like the glasses, shoes and comment cards left along the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, so others know that we have passed this way.
But the gospel challenges us to see that Jesus’ incarnation – God with us – offers us an alternative narrative to which we should live and be remembered for – one shaped by compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience forgiveness and love.
During the last decade questions have been asked about what defines our communities and what legacy is it that we are leaving – we have seen inquiries into the behaviour of our media and financial systems, we live with the legacy of the MP expresses, we have seen investigations into allegations of abuse in people’s private lives but also in care homes for the most vulnerable in our society, we have seen inquiries into the care received by patients in our hospitals.
Many have reflected publically on what drives and builds our communities and so often in seeking for a solution and for a means to build compassion and care into our community or to improve our moral framework we look to regulation and legislation or top down initiatives such as ‘The big Society’.
Having worked in government with responsibility for improving the care and compassion of nurses in the NHS and for developing community across England I know that the answer is complex but I also know that it has more to do with the heart and with our actions as individuals than it does a legislative process or regulation or financial reward.
There are wonderful examples of positive community activity which are not brought about by legislation and it wasn’t done for material gain it was about compassion and kindness.
In response to God’s generosity of love in the incarnation we are called to be stirred and motivated to act to bring healing and wholeness, restoration with God and restoration of community. This will not always be easy and at times we will find ourselves in difficult places and it will cost but the incarnation asks us what is the legacy which we leave in 2017?