\ Walking Day One | Christina Brandt

1. October 2011

Today was the day that the worst imaginable happened:  My body ached and I couldn’t keep up with the group.  I told them to go on ahead when I really wanted someone to stay with me and cheer me on.  We agreed to meet at km marker 100, and when I finally stumbled up, they weren’t there.  No note (as others left for their traveling companions), no clue how far ahead they were.  I’d just climbed a big hill filled with huge rocks and teetered, sweated and rushed because I wanted to catch up.  And they weren’t there.

So, for a second I felt sorry for myself.  Abandoned, left behind, uncared for – pick any version of the “poor me” story, and I was all over it.  And then I remembered:  I’d told them to go ahead so they could enjoy their walk.  Despite aching hips and ankles, a pounding heart and a lot of dizziness, I could still walk a bit.  It was a sunny day and there were people walking by who’d likely help me IF I’D JUST ASK.

Man, that asking for help business is tough.  “No, I’ll be fine,” I said to one woman who noticed I’d stopped to bend over and stretch and asked if I needed help.  Then, when I hobbled to a little café and ordered a sandwich, I analyzed the situation:  dizzy, no water left in my pack, and an aching body…but a phone nearby to call our driver for help.  But no.  I decided to keep walking.  I lasted about 50 yards.  And then I felt my heart pounding.

Suddenly, I realized that keeping up appearances, showing the world I could do something that felt utterly stupid at the moment, was…um, stupid.  In broken Spanish, I asked the lady behind the bar to call Carlos, our driver and Remover Of All Obstacles.  I said “come get me off this Camino.”  And he did.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon together, “leap-frogging” over the walkers, to ensure that everyone in our group made it safely to today’s endpoint.  We dispensed water, laughs and encouragement.  And a funny thing happened:  each group member told me they were so glad to see me in the van because it gave them the permission to stop, too, if they wanted.

Although they didn’t wait at the mileage marker, they did leave me some encouragement along the way:

So, what was today’s lesson?  People want to help.  Get over yourself and ask.

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