It had been one of my best gigs. Five times every year for 20 years at a campground on the rugged west coast of Canada, I guided one-day programs with groups of students, leading them to engage with the beauty and richness of the life on the Pacific shore. Now it was time to move on, and I was feeling the sweet sorrow of the ending.
In the evening before the last day I went for a walk through the campground as the September light faded. Returning to the group campsite, I saw that a young woman was coming onto the lane from a different direction and would be walking just ahead of me in near darkness. It was a potentially awkward situation for a moment. Then she slowed down, turned to give me a friendly greeting, and began to talk.
She was troubled by a decision she had to make. She had just started a new job at a high-end tourist lodge near the campground. It was a good job, one that she enjoyed and felt lucky to have found. Now, less than two weeks after beginning that job, she had received another offer from people she knew and liked, to work with them. The money wasn’t as good, but this job would be with children, the kind of work she felt deeply drawn to. She was torn because it didn’t feel right to her to leave the new job so soon. She had gone for a walk on the beach hoping to find her answer.
Her conflict and uncertainty, and her desire to act in integrity, were obvious in her tone and words. As I listened I thought of the many good reasons for choosing one way or the other and how to help her find her way through them. Then thinking gave way to something else, and I heard myself say, “Follow your heart.”
She stopped. For a few seconds we stood together in silence as the words landed in her and she made her decision. Then she said, “Thank you.”
We walked quietly again, until she gestured to the right and said “Well, I gotta go this way.”
“I’m going the other way. Have a good night.”
Then I understood that the purpose of my walk had been to meet that young woman, hear her, and offer those three words. And I realized that I had never seen her face.
March 16, 2021