In the movie "The Way" from 2010, Tom is a doctor whose son Daniel is an adventurer. Daniel took on different adventures and for his latest adventure he decided he was going to walk the El Camino de Santiago, also known as The Way of St James, in Spain. The movie was filmed entirely along The Way in Spain and France.
El Camino de Santiago is a Christian pilgrimage that ends at Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia region in the northwest of Spain. There are several routes throughout Europe that all eventually end up in Santiago de Compostela, where tradition has it the remains of the apostle St. James are buried.
Well Tom, played by Martin Sheen, gets a call that his son, played by Sheen's real-life son Emilio Estevez (who also wrote and directed the movie), has died on The Way and he has to go ID the body and take care of arrangements to get him back to the States.
Once there, Tom, not the adventurous type, decides to finish what Daniel was unable to do and walk The Way. Along the walk he manages to connect with three other people all making the pilgrimage, all for their own reasons - all trying to deal with their issues and find their answers.
What happens, while predictable, shows us that life is what we make of it. There is a difference between the life we live and the life we choose. We can make choices that change our lives, -whether it is something life-changing like a new job or a simply a new diet or routine - or we can continue along the path we are on already living the life we are comfortable with.
I thought of that movie this week after the train wreck that killed about 80 people and put dozens in the hospital. The train accident was in Santiago de Compostelaand the train was filled with people making a pilgrimage and to attend celebrations honoring St. James. The festivities were canceled following the accident.
How many of those people were going to the celebrations in hopes of finding their answers? How many were going to celebrate their faith, a faith that had to have been tested by the accident?
From the film's website:
"In the film, a father unfortunately comes to understand his son's life through his death and along the road finds himself as well. The main protagonist of the film is the conflict we each have within ourselves of choosing a life versus living a life. This greater question of finding oneself is a matter of acceptance and choice. Given the circumstances of our lives, how do we understand ourselves, our family and our friends, and the choices we make? Do we blindly go through life unaware of our actions and how they affect not only ourselves but others, as well? What role does our community, friendships and faith play in our decisions?"
There is a bigger picture to all of this, one that is about how we affect not just our friends and families, but our communities. Life is about the small things because in the grand scheme of things we are just small players in the history of life. However, it doesn't matter whether we are rich or poor, old or young, we all will - and do - have an effect on everything around us.
So if we are looking for ourselves, we also need to look at what we do. If we become the best person we can be it would seem that we also would make our friends, families and communities better simply by the actions we take to make ourselves better.
And isn't leaving this world a better place than when we got here the best thing we can do?