I am giving a sermon this morning on the difference between being a pilgrim and a tourist. A tourist goes through life just seeing sights, avoiding personal commitments and remaining untouched by their experiences. Pilgrims, on the other hand, invest time, talk and interest in the people they meet and allow themselves to be changed by their experiences. I am going to offer my listeners four suggestions for how they can be pilgrims rather than tourists.
- Plan ahead. In his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell says when on the threshold of a new adventure, we should consult allies like maps, music, artwork, books or people that point us in the right direction. We can plan ahead by learning about new places we will visit. We can plan ahead for the birth of a grandchild, a visit from friends or even for the journey of our own death.
- Enjoy the journey as much as your arrival at your destination. Gregory the Great, said, “do not avoid the journey, hastening to the arrival point, for the journey itself can be an occasion for growth.” I am trying to get a children’s book published. It is a long journey but I am enjoying the new people I am meeting and the things I am learning. It will have been a good experience whether I ever publish a book or not. One year we went on a bicycle trip around Lake Konstanz in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The journey was the whole point, not arriving at our final destination.
- Make friends. Keenan Kelsey an American Presbyterian minister says, “Living participation is what separates the pilgrim from the tourist. The tourist remains an aloof observer as if they were at the theatre. They are never a part of the show.” Pilgrims make a point of interacting with people. They talk to those sitting next to them on a city bus, partnered with them on the golf course, or beside them on a tour. Many years ago I began to do this very deliberately and it has been transforming.
- Reflect on your experience. Niebuhr wrote that pilgrims are poets who create after taking a journey. We aren’t all poets but as we journey through life some of us reflect on our experiences by writing songs or stories. Some people sketch or paint or get together to talk with others who have made similar journeys. One thing that helps me reflect on my life journey is keeping this blog.
Walter R. Rossi says “tourists evaluate the success of a trip by how many different souvenirs they bring home and the number of places they can list as having visited. On life’s journey do some of us determine our success by how many things we accumulate and how many accomplishments we can list? Rossi says pilgrims deem a journey a success by the way it has transformed them as a person.
On the journey of life will you be a pilgrim or a tourist?