the kindness of strangers and camino angels.
I first stepped foot onto the Way of Saint James over fourteen years ago on a cold November morning in mystical Vezelay, France, over 1500 kilometers to my destination. And since that day, I have been met time and time again with care, compassion, and overwhelming generosity. The most memorable of these encounters often came in the simplest of ways - a hot shower, a warm meal, and a place to rest my weary bones with big-hearted hospitaleros welcoming me in. ... And then there was the old farmer with a bag overflowing with burgundy colored cherries for me as I hobbled along the Holy Road, sun blazing overhead, those heart-mending conversations with pilgrims I would often never see again, sometimes holding a mirror for me to see what was being transformed, that priest from Chile singing a Cat Steven's melody under a Meseta full moon as we walked those extra two hours upon discovering the albergue was completo, pots of steamy garlic soup & stiff shots of Orujo - the cure for almost everything. These simple but deeply profound moments can change the way we see our world. I will never forget all that I was given along that long, strange and beautiful road to Santiago and hope to continue to give as I have received.
- Kim Narenkivicius, Soulful Road
KINDRED SPIRIT AND BEING OF SERVICE.
I heard of Brad Genereux's organization, Veterans on the Camino some time during the last year or so. As I learned more about his mission and the intention to bring veterans to the Camino de Santiago, I knew I wanted to find a way to offer my support. This would be confirmed by a bit of Camino Magic in the unlikeliest of places this last winter - Nepal.
I was on the last leg of my year-long journey - on retreat at The Vajra Hotel in Kathmandu. In the old café, I would sit at the rustic wooden table near the window, the light pouring in over my field notes, guide books, and scribbled scraps with ideas and intentions to offer guided pilgrimages and mentorship on the Camino. In these notes was a piece of paper with Brad's information and thoughts about how to support this vision, possibly sponsoring a veteran/pilgrim during one of his upcoming quests. One morning at breakfast, an American couple sat down at the table next to me and the woman struck up a conversation. She asked me what I was working on, and I shared the vision about bringing small groups to the trail, curated and intentional to deepen the experience through creativity, expression and mindfulness. Her eyes lit up and she mentioned that she knew of the Camino, and had a friend who took veterans on pilgrimage. I asked his name and she said, "Brad Genereux, and he has written a book. Have you heard of it?" I smiled and glanced over at the page of my notes with his name written on top. The Camino is everywhere.
A few months later in Spain ...
At the time, I was only Facebook friends with Brad and had never met in person, but our paths would cross a few months later on the Camino Frances in the small village of El Acebo. I was sitting in a café, warming up with a café con leche by the fire before heading down the mountain towards Ponferrada. Out from the rainy Way came three pilgrims, looking rugged, healthy and happy. I recognized Brad right away and he introduced me to Tyler, a pilgrim and veteran making his way to Santiago. Synchronicity.
Brad shared with me that the cost to bring a veteran to the Camino is approximately $3800 USD. It is my hope that with each Soulful Road guided group quest, we could make it possible to bring a veteran on the road with Brad's organization.
For more information about Brad and his good work, visit veteransonthecamino.com.
Partial scholarships are available for Soulful Road guided quests. Those in need, please email me at email@example.com and share your story. Or, if you feel inspired and would like to contribute to this fund, please email me and we can arrange to talk. Thank you.
AND TO THE COMPANIONS ON THE PATH ...
I would also like to extend a big heart-felt thank you to those who have crossed my path in a profound way during my years of "apprenticeship" on and off of the road to Santiago, Dr. William Griffiths, Rebekah Scott and Patrick O'Gara of The Peaceable Kingdom in Moratinos, Kathy Gower, Elyn Aviva and Gary White, Phil Cousineau, Nancy Frey, Laurie Dennett, Jaime of La Trucha de Arco Iris in El Acebo, Federico Shepherd of CaminoArtes in Carrion de los Condes, Bruno Bernoni of Albergue San Bruno in Moratinos, Acacio, Orietta (and Paolo Coelho) in Viloria de Rioja, Basia and Bertrand of Flores del Camino in Castrillo de los Polvazares, Felipe at Albergue Monte Irago in Foncebadon, Sue Kenney, Tracy Saunders of The Little Fox House, Nancy Reynolds, Brad Genereux, Kurt Koontz, Camino Angels that never gave their name, and to the mysterious Keepers of the Road — of this world and beyond this thinning veil. Ultreïa! - Kim
If you feel to contribute to the scholarship fund, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
For a donation to Veterans on the Camino, you may support directly through Brad's non-profit organization, veteransonthecamino.com.