Rhythms of Community

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Rhythms of Community

by James R. Brooks | Hagerstown, MD

James Brooks meal in Astorga, group eating dinner.
Evening meal with fellow pilgrims on the Plaza Mayor in Astorga, Spain, on June 18, 2018. Photo by a generous restaurant server.

“Buen Camino” are words central to pilgrim vocabulary. A common greeting on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. In Portugal, the words are “Bom Caminho.” Having walked as a pilgrim in both countries, plus a day in France, these words are repeating notes in a rhythm I cherish. The rhythm of the pilgrim community moves my soul.

Some days, these words were simply something to say when meeting another pilgrim or being greeted by a resident. Beyond the “good walk” melody they provide, it is a composition akin to that described by L’Engle in A Wrinkle in Time. Words and intention of a song of life that brings wellness to creation.

Most regular were the meals. Especially the evening meal, in a plaza, with a Camino family or my wife, Amy. Around a table that held sustenance, we would share and listen and encourage. The laughter and the tears shared during these meals feed my soul. A reminder to me of the Lord’s Table that I enjoy each Sunday, and more. On those difficult bits of the Camino, the evening meal gave me strength beyond the calories of jamón and bread. At those tables, I was not alone. I was understood by those with whom I shared the journey. At times, I found I was not alone beyond the Camino as we shared life experiences. 

Each day on the Camino is a new song of community. The tug, turn, and push of an urban resident helping a lost pilgrim find their way through a chaotic cityscape. The smile of a kind pharmacist as they assist a blistered or broken pilgrim. The gentle ring of a bell on livestock as the shepherd says, “Buen Camino,” to passing pilgrims. The religious who invite pilgrims to Mass, and send them off with blessings. These encounters of a larger Camino community are welcoming, inviting, inclusive, and sustaining. Often I think of how I could not have completed my pilgrimages without either my Camino family or Amy, and that is true. Upon reflection, this larger community of people and landscape that reside along the Way are equally impactful.

Thankfully, this rhythm has filled the air beyond Santiago. We have a choice of tunes to listen to. I am more likely now than before my Camino to listen to the rhythm of community around me.

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