There once was a girl, who was scared. Not scared, petrified. Scared of what? - You may ask. Scared of everything. She grew up believing that the world is a dark and cruel place. Ever since she could remember she felt as if danger was lurking around the corner and so she decided to be cautious. Cautious with where she goes and what she does, but also with what she says and who she lets inside her heart. Because if she could protect her heart from ruthless people who have no regard for the damage they cause, she could feel safe. Peaceful. At ease. And so, she put her guard up. Avoiding crowds, meeting new people, and everything different from the norms that her family has taught her.
The only moment when she dared to be brave and lose herself in her imagination was when she was in the library. She dared to read every line however scary, meet every character and she refused to skip a verse, even when she felt the strong urge to quickly check if there was a happy ending in the story. But that is the beauty of the literature; you read lines that fill you with dread and then you find moments when you don’t want pages to end. But you must keep going.
Somewhere between the dusty books and scented candles in the safety of her nest, she realized that the same truth could be applied to her life. If she wants to grow and to get her happy ever after she must step out of her comfort zone into the unknown. She didn’t believe in half-measures, so she packed her bags and started walking. What she didn’t realize at that moment was that this walk and this journey was unlike any other. Along with people from all around the world, she was walking Camino de Santiago – the Way of Saint Joseph, which people take for a variety of reasons. At first overwhelmed with a multitude of cultures, languages, and stimulates she remained quiet. Listening to conversations of strangers she felt intrigued. How is it possible that these people still find glory despite their sufferings? Why are they convinced that the world is worth exploring despite the dangers?
And then she started writing down what she heard. She wrote about 80–year–old French men, who were walking with a life-support machine in his back in case he needed it, he was convinced that the effort wasn’t worthless, because his urge to explore was too strong to let him stay at home. She wrote about a young German couple who had met during the pandemic. They had been working in the same hospital, fighting to save lives, never talking with one another, but their eyes had kept meeting, smiling from under their facemasks. This journey was their honeymoon, finally enabling them to take care of each other. She wrote about people who have opened their hearts and homes to welcome pilgrims, about families, the elderly, and the youth, who put one foot in front of the other to find answers, ideas, and experiences. Finally, she allowed herself to be present throughout the entirety of the trial. To witness every step and make every mistake. It was hard. And scary. She did it anyway.
As you may already guess I no longer find myself in this frightened girl, but if I could, I would hug her and tell her that I am proud of her. In one of the books, I used to cling to I read a passage from Kurt Hahn’s speech where he stated that to be useful and to be able to change the reality, a young person should move far away from his home and face challenges and hardships, surrounded by a diverse peer group. It is something I try to implement into my life.
When you conclude that the intimacy of being seen and understood is accessible even if people come from different backgrounds, you are ready to act. When you realize that a different culture, religion, sexual identity, or race is not something that separates you from another person, but enriches your shared experience, you are ready to start a dialogue. And when you see that all the flaws you carry within, as an armor separating you from others, only make you more human and capable of forming meaningful connections, you pack your bags and go as far as you can