It’s Parkinson’s Awareness Week this week (10-16 April 2017). It’s also Holy Week. And it’s got me reminiscing about my life before I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Specifically, about a pilgrimage I used to walk every Holy Week, which was a big part of my life…a Christian pilgrimage called Student Cross.
Student Cross is a walking pilgrimage to Walsingham in Norfolk, which has been taking place every year since 1948.
I walked my first Student Cross in 1998. I’ve talked a lot about stepping out of my comfort zone and lessons learned from Parkinson’s, in the last year. It occurred to me this week, that I took a massive step out of my comfort zone, 19 years ago, when I turned up to a church in Epping – to spend the next seven days with people I had never met before – walking approximately 120 miles to Walsingham. Oh and did I mention carrying a 100 lb wooden cross?
Like when I stepped out of my comfort zone a year ago and joined Start Living Today PD, it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Although it was scary at first, I was made to feel so welcome from the minute I arrived. And I now realise that I learned many lessons in the 14 years I walked Student Cross – that I’ve been reinforcing over the last few years, since I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
I learned what it is like to be part of a very diverse group of people, who have one thing which unites them. Pilgrims on Student Cross act as witnesses to Christ during Holy Week. Members of Start Living Today PD support and encourage each other to live well with Parkinson’s.
I learned the value of encouraging others and being encouraged by others – through good time and bad. I recently referred to the sunny days and rainy days of living with Parkinson’s. In my years of Student Cross, we’ve literally walked in sun, hail, rain, floods, snow and wind.
I learned to be more grateful for every day things. Student Cross pilgrims mostly sleep on church hall floors. And a cup of tea made by a stranger, welcoming you into their church on a tea stop, as you come in drenched from the rain, somehow means much more than just a cup of tea.
I’ve met some amazing, inspirational people and made many friends on Student Cross. Ditto through Start Living Today PD.
I am grateful that I had the opportunity to help organise two pilgrimages – London leg and Essex leg – in my role as ‘night secretary’. I am now privileged to help to run Start Living Today PD.
Walking Student Cross taught me some valuable life lessons, which in turn have helped me on my Parkinson’s journey.
Thank you to all my friends and fellow pilgrims on Student Cross. I haven’t walked Student Cross for a few years, but I think of you and pray for you every Holy Week.