This summer I spent some time in the light filled province of Andalucia, Spain. I was intrigued by the name since I knew that ‘lucia’ meant ‘light’, and was even more intrigued when I discovered that Andalucia can mean ‘walking lightly’. The idea of being in the land of ‘walking lightly’ was quite a wonderful thing to contemplate and I took this thought to the next part of my journey, a small pilgrimage in the Hebrides Islands, Scotland. I wanted to think more about what it might mean to ‘walk lightly’ or live in a land of ‘walking lightly’. The metaphor has stayed with me and continues to inspire. I am hopeful that it may inspire all of my colleagues who are walking back into schools this week and next.
We walk lightly out of consideration for others, a sleeping child, or a person needing healing rest. There is an inherent stilling of our own agenda in walking lightly, the ability to attend to the needs of others and respond appropriately. Teachers need this attention to the particular. Techniques, ideas, policies and principles are important, but we hold them lightly against the greater horizon of the particular needs of our students.
We walk lightly when we are aware of the sacred, when we take off our shoes and turn towards the Holy. In fact it is quite difficult to stomp around without shoes. Stomping brings to mind the little toddlers in my parish whose parents take their shoes off so that their movements are more appropriate for a sacred space. Teachers take off their shoes when they realize that their calling is to ‘turn souls’, to see those souls as sacred ground, to evoke a heart and mind response to the beautiful, the good and the true, to help others see and hear within and beyond themselves.
We walk lightly when we hold means and ends together. Walking lightly is a way of being, of knowing that it is just as important how we walk as it is to get to the destination. The being is the end, the inn on the road and the inn at end of the road. Teachers hold means and ends together when they care about the kind of existence they create for their students and when they push back on paradigms that harm their students: punishment and reward paradigms, consumer paradigms, individualism paradigms, disenchanted paradigms…to name just a few.
We walk lightly when we are aware of our own brokenness. Our pain causes us to limp, and to refrain from putting too much pressure on the painful limb. Teachers walk lightly when they remember that they, too, need healing and help, that their brokenness has an impact on their students. Watchfulness, guarding your heart to minimize the spilling out of your pain, is only possible when walking lightly.
We walk lightly when we are on treacherous ground, knowing we might slip over the edge of a cliff, knowing the ground might open in front of us, knowing we might trigger an unexpected explosion. Teachers walk lightly because they know that they don’t have all of the answers and that there is much hidden in the contexts of their work. There is especially much hidden in their students, hiddenness that causes unexpected reactions flowing from trauma below the behaviour. Teachers consider their steps carefully in building relationships with their students and school communities and seek fruitful, life-giving paths around barriers and dangers.
We walk lightly when we are more interested in being acted upon than acting on, when we gaze rather than glance, when we seek to love a place rather than tour a place, when we are a guest rather than an owner, when we seek encounter rather than control. Teachers walk lightly when they walk with patience, humility, openness and care. Lightness brings stillness, stillness brings transformation and revelation.
We walk lightly when we want to leave a place more beautiful than we found it.
We walk lightly when we walk with others as companions, helpers, supporters, encouragers. We aren’t running so far ahead that we can’t be present, we aren’t stamping our feet with impatience when others are not where we think they should be.
We walk lightly when we create space for detours of delight and rest, when we are walking with joy and gratitude. It is not possible to walk lightly without a lightness of spirit.
We walk lightly when the only way to deeper water is over rocky stones and barnacles. Teachers accept the difficulty of the journey and keep their vision renewed. They also help their students capture a vision of the deep water.
We walk lightly when we are on our knees, the place where we can see and hear best.
Most of all, we walk lightly when we walk in faith with Christ, the one who makes it possible for us to walk lightly, to stop our ego-stomping all over the world. He is the one who walked so lightly He walked on water, the one whose feet did not even touch the ground when He gave His life for the world. We are His light fragrance, the ones who also walk lightly in love. (Eph. 5:2)
Walk lightly, walk in the land of Andalucia, walk in the light, walk with the light, back to school, towards your students. Help them walk lightly. May God bless your walking.