Written by The Rev. Canon Anna Carmichael
Day three of #thepilgrimageofhope began at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Madera. Despite a bit of a rocky start, the travelers had a good day of walking..a cool breeze, beautiful painted lady butterflies as decorations along the way, and excellent road conditions. Due to my blistered feet, I travelled with the team by driving the van.
I was pretty disappointed and feeling discouraged last night as I crawled into bed with my feet wrapped in bandages. But after prayer and reflection, concluded that what mattered most was that I found a way to continue participating along the journey as a servant to the team. So being in the van provided me respite as well as a way to stay connected. And I must say, it was a pretty great day to have Nancy Fitzgerald as my co-pilot and companion...we laughed, told stories, and talked about the importance of what we are doing. And it was pretty cool that after 13 miles of walking in under 4 hours, the team gathered for lunch at a local Mexican restaurant.
There are moments along the way when unexpected and beautiful things happen. For example, sometimes we have no option but to stop in front of someone's house in order to take our breaks and regroup. Instead of being ignored or told to move along, when we explain what we're doing, we're invited to rest and take our time. This is what hospitality is in its simplest form.
This afternoon we arrived in Chowchilla to be received by our Roman Catholic friends. Due to some technical difficulties, things needed to shift a bit, but we had outstanding hospitality offered to us by the Ramos family. Reuben, his wife and their son had been in church on "Doubting Thomas" Sunday, heard the invitation of Fr Angel to host this group of travelers, and despite being in the middle of moving from one house to another, they felt compelled to offer us hospitality. They were gracious hosts to welcome a group of strangers into their home. Their dog, Jim, became fast friends with the "pilgrimage pups" (Lee's Billy Boy and Lilly) and conversation was abundant.
Friends, this is the church at it's best...when strangers become friends and break bread together.
As the afternoon sun began to recede, I had to come to terms with a nasty cough which has been developing since the start of the pilgrimage. The week leading up to our launch was fast and furious with last minute changes and details, in addition to the "normal" day to day routine. And as much as I hate to admit it, I didn't take care of myself...I worked long hours, skipped meals, and didn't get enough sleep. So tonight, I made the decision to go to urgent care for help. Thanks to my friend, fellow driver, wound cleaner, foot binder and companion along the way, Wilson Colon, I was able to receive the care I needed, as well as pick up prescriptions for bronchitis. Receiving care is hard for me, as I naturally lean to be a care-giver, not a care-receiver. This journey is becoming for me not only a reflection on the struggles of our sisters and brothers who try to find a place of peace for themselves and their families, as well.as places of radical hospitality who see them not as strangers, but as friends, but this journey is becoming a spiritual practice for me in learning humility, in learning to listen deeply to my body, and in learning how to be cared for.
After the urgent care visit and a trip to the pharmacy, Wilson and I had a serious conversation about what to do next...and the decision was made for me to return to Fresno to get a good night's sleep and to allow my body a day of recovery. If I'm ready to get back in the van on Wednesday to drive, that's excellent. If rest is what is needed, then I'll wait another day. And I've made peace with that...because despite my Wonder Woman license plate, I'm not an Amazon warrior...I am a priest, committed to caring for my neighbors and the strangers in our midst, but who also needs to learn to receive care and hospitality.
I am so grateful for and blessed by this amazing team of walkers, drivers, hosts and strangers along the way who have become friends. We could not do this alone; Jesus sent the disciples out two by two for a reason.
Tomorrow the team will travel from Chowchilla to LeGrand and be received by Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church. I'll be taking respite and serving as "tech support" for Deacon Terrance Goodpasture as he takes the wheel of the van in my place. Pray for those who walk, who drive, and those who provide hospitality, not only to our team, but to those who welcome strangers with radical hospitality everywhere.
Starting today, in addition to following along with our Pilgrimage of Hope booklet, you can also follow Stories from the Road on our website...daily reflections from walkers and drivers en route to Sacramento.