Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

In Physical, Spiritual Worlds, Getting Lost Can Be an Advantage

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

In Physical, Spiritual Worlds, Getting Lost Can Be an Advantage

Article excerpt

If you give me directions into a subdivision, you'll have to write another set to get me back out. If I'm absolutely sure it's a left at the light, my husband's learned to turn right. At high school speech tournaments, my friends had to find my competition room for me before going on to theirs, lest I spend the final round wandering through the halls.

My failure to comprehend spatial relationships used to cast a pall over new adventures. A working trip to Spain sounds glamorous until you're lost deep in a barrio, children clinging to the sides of your rental car, not a word of Spanish but hola at your grasp.

Recently, though, I've decided that a tendency to get lost is an advantage. Unable to survive on my own with a Trip-tik, I throw myself upon strangers' mercy. Unable to grasp more than the first leg of the journey they scribble on my napkin, I seek out still more kindness. Invariably, I find it. People love to know the answer, share it, see your eyes light with understanding and receive your thanks.

This is why, in the 22 years since I began driving, I have accumulated thousands more proofs of human kindness than your self-reliant Boy Scout types who squint up at the sun and plot their course. I have been trusted with natives' shortcuts, heard the dangers of certain intersections, learned the lore of the lakes and bridges where children were conceived, treasure was found or misery led to suicide.

Helplessness works equally well in the spiritual geography. Every time I ask someone how she negotiated a sharp curve in life's path, I receive vicarious wisdom. Every time I admit I'm lost, somebody arrives to show me a way out. …

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