I’ve always thought I have a pretty good sense of direction. As a three-time grade-level National Geographic Geography Bee champion and one-time NYS finalist in middle school (not to brag), I pride myself on knowing where I am and where other things are. I’ve also thought I have a pretty good sense of life direction. I understand my current place, where I have been, and where I want to end up.
As it turns out, neither of these types of direction turn out exactly as planned 100% of the time – go figure. In fact, I’ve sometimes been left wondering “where am I?”
Our trip has been an excellent and humbling reminder that no matter how wise we think we are, we cannot navigate alone. Answering a question like “where am I?” is significantly easier with the help of others. So many individuals have helped physically guide us along our journey so far. I think of my host family and our bus driver in São Paulo, Eduardo, steering us throughout the twists and turns of the city to get to places like Ibirapuera Park and Beco do Batman. I think Eduardo deserves an extra shout-out for managing a gigantic bus through the winding mountain roads on the route to the SESC Bertioga beach.
All of the pilots on the flights we’ve had so far have instructed us to “sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight.” They have then proceeded to somehow safely direct us through the clouds to get to our destination. Our guide here in Foz do Iguaçu, Neri, helped us yesterday and I’m sure he’ll help us much more these next few days, too. Others in class have written about how much the Holy Spirit has been guiding us, and I cannot emphasize how true that is. Both our spiritual and physical navigation have pushed us to reject the traditional American autonomous attitude of doing everything by ourselves. Instead, we’re relying on others and on the Divine.
Even just last night, about a dozen of us set out in search of a grocery store. We thought beforehand that we could find the way all by ourselves. When Google Maps yielded poor results, we had to rely on others that knew where to go. Some of our classmates more proficient in Portuguese asked a passerby for directions, and we found our way – thanks Lourdes & Grace!
Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice and comforting to know your exact location on the geographic map or on a career or life path. But, so much beauty can be seen by trusting God, trusting others, and exploring. I think one of the greatest lessons that this trip has taught me is about direction. We’ve learned to orient ourselves towards Christ by exploring freely within a structured, safe framework. I’m incredibly grateful for that lesson and for all of the fantastic experiences I’ve had. I’m ready to apply what I’ve learned to the rest of my life.