wayfindingI had occasion yesterday to revisit Hershey Medical Center. It is a beautifully and thoughtfully constructed facility with inner courtyards abloom with all manner of springtime color. All buildings are connected, so getting to the five-star cafeteria for a delicious salad after our appointments was easy. On the return, I found myself face-to-face with a sign I had missed on the way to lunch: “Wayfinding Map.”

Now I do appreciate good directions. Had I been unfamiliar with the layout of the buildings – which is mostly true of anyone visiting a hospital complex – I would have been most grateful for the clarity of this invitation. And, as a writer, I was struck by the underlying implications of ‘way-finding.’

For one thing, as the Cheshire Cat noted, the way you choose depends on where you want to go. So much of our lives are thusly directed. Goals abound in our culture – time, score, age, honor, place – all kinds of numbers, destinations and status toward which we are guided by all kinds of maps – curricula, degree programs, directions, advertisements, testimonials …

And yet, I couldn’t help musing, so much of our wayfinding is really far less laid out before us. AFTER the fact, we may look back and see a path or thread that pulls it all together, makes us realize the why and wherefore of one step or another choice. But a wayfinding MAP? Rarely is our life’s path so clearcut. In fact, it is often the unexpected, the detour, the mis-step that teaches and that opens the way to something we might never have imagined otherwise.

While I retain my great appreciation to Hershey Medical Center for its thoughtful and useful Wayfinding Map – and indeed many other helpful guides like well-marked street signs and exits and Google maps – for life’s general wayfinding I remain a fan of the mind and heart open to receive what comes.  Rumi says it beautifully in his wonderful poem:

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.