2020: What a Year!
What could have happened but didn’t!
I have written before and will reiterate it again, “If you want to make God laugh, share with him your plans!”
Having launched XirCammini last year, 2020 was the year when we really should have taken off in terms of local and overseas trekking. In 2019 we walked together in Malta on a weekly basis and travelled on Spanish Caminos (Camino Primitivo and Camino Inglés x 2), 5 Celtic Caminos (x2), Via Jacobi in Switzerland, St. Augustine’s Camino in Kent, UK, various short trekking trips to Sicily and also a 2-week end-of-year trekking trip in Sri Lanka where we immersed ourselves in a completely different culture. Late in 2019 we also undertook training to support the UK Confraternity of St. James with volunteers in 2020 to help run a donativo albergue on the Camino Norte that CSJ administers.
We even started 2020 well with a couple of hiking trips in Sicily.
Then Covid-19 struck!
The rest of the itinerary for 2020, i.e. Caminos in France, Spain, Slovakia, Ireland, Italy and a repeat of Sri Lanka, as well as the much-awaited Universal Peace Walk® that we had to launch in March 2020 all had to be shelved. Initial despair gradually turned to a stoic acceptance of what we could not change.. and the year ambled on.
What did happen!
2020 gave us more time for quiet reflection. At a personal level we had more time for our loved ones. We also had time to sort the wheat from the chaff and re-evaluate what is really important in our lives.
For XirCammini, we learned to adapt to the harsh reality of not being able to walk in large groups or trek overseas. It was all part of our journey and not the end of the world.
- Urged people to walk solo or in small groups between March and June 2020 and posted photos of solo/small groups of a maximum of 3 persons to encourage others to follow suit;
- Immediately helped to recoup and reimburse all accommodation and internal travel deposits in connection with the overseas treks. All were 100% reimbursed thanks to the goodwill of the overseas partner organisation with whom we collaborate;
- Re-commenced weekly groups walks with a bang in June, attracting between 50 – 100 people per weekly walk. Managing these, with leaders and sweepers, were a challenge but they prepared us for what followed and gave us the nucleus of leaders for when Covid-19 proverbial hit the fan again.
- Re-0rganised in eight groups of 10 people each (maximum 80 people) with 8 different routes each Wednesday between July until October, following strict Covid-19 protocol. Despite it being summer the concurrence was very high. People were committed. We managed this thanks to the commitment of the leaders that helped in the planning and led small groups every week.
- Continued to provide route advice when the groups of 10 had to be disbanded (6-person limit imposed).
We are encouraged by the fact that people have continued to exercise in fresh air in the company of others and this has proven to be therapeutic during these times of increased stress.
In this respect, XirCammini continues to reiterate that it is not an exclusive group. On the contrary, XirCammini has proven to be a movement urging individuals to walk (whether alone, with us or with others) and also urging others to start leading walks.
Something that really shone through 2020 is a spirit of positivity and altruism.
Your Generosity: Our Greatest Achievement in 2020
Although the above required planning, effort and commitment, our greatest achievement in 2020 was harnessing the generosity of XirCammini members and friends over the last few weeks.
For this I wish to thank John Darmanin and John Chircop for driving the ‘Lend a Helping Hand’ Initiative and for the Committee’s counsel. But mostly I wish to thank all of you who donated freely towards this worthy cause, including also the volunteers who helped in each of the collection points and in delivering the goods to the inner-harbour parish.
When grace flourishes it does not rain; it pours. Not only did we fill the parish office but also most of the stairwell of the office. I personally fought back tears when we delivered the goodies, overwhelmed by your generosity.
.. and it does not stop there. Gifts keep on coming in. A pharmacist calling to deliver more boxes, a baby products/clothing firm filling 2 of our cars with an assortment of items as we ponder who best to donate to.
The words, “Thank you” are a very poor vehicle to express the gratitude welling up within.
2021: .. the journey continues
When measures relax again we hope to re-introduce the weekly walks as well as roll out an itinerary for overseas trekking, air-travel permitting. For example, we are keen to walk the Tochar Phadriag for the feast of St. Patrick or trek the Cork Peninsula to Gougane Barra over the Easter Recess and undertake Caminos in Spain and more Celtic Caminos after that. But it all depends on how the situation vis-à-vis, vaccination, air travel and people’s perceptions continue to unfold.
Famous last words: It’s never about the numbers or the destination. It’s all about the experience of the journey. Keep walking | keep smiling | keep safe.