On my personal bucket list is to take a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. So it’s perhaps not surprising that I jump at any opportunity to screen a film which will carry me–even if only virtually–along the ancient Way of St. James. My favorite takes on this spiritual journey have included The Way and the beautiful A Way to Forgiveness by Erin Dooley. And now I have a new favorite to add to my list: I’ll Push You.
If the title of this 100-minute documentary gave me a hint at where it was going in a preliminary sense, by the end of my journey along the Camino with lifelong best friends Justin Skeesuck and Patrick Gray my perspective had been flipped completely on end. The blueprint for the film is not complex: Justin, confined to a wheelchair and fighting the ravages of a progressive neuromuscular disease, learns about the Camino and expresses an interest in making the trip. Patrick, ever at his side, volunteers to make the trip possible when he simply volunteers, “I’ll push you.”
What follows in the film is our opportunity to virtually make “The Way” alongside Patrick and Justin. If the thought of covering five hundred plus miles in five and a half weeks along mountainous off-road terrain sends fear through you, imagine doing it in a wheelchair! What makes I’ll Push You all the more touching is that along the way, we meet and fall in love with not only Justin and Patrick but also with their families, who have been so deeply impacted by Justin’s diagnosis. Cameos by multiple pilgrims add to the joy and the overall mission of the film.
Without giving away too much of the journey, it becomes clear early on that for all of their physical and logistical preparations, Justin and Patrick may have bitten off more than they can chew. Even with a very strong friend alongside to help–literally–with the heavy lifting, the temptation to give up looms large. In a way, I as a viewer was urging this for the duo. “It’s ok, guys,” I found myself saying. “It’s too hard. There are too many obstacles. You tried… it’s ok if you just choose to go home.”
There is a pinnacle theme that runs through I’ll Push You that I needed to hear, and it’s the very reason that Justin and Patrick do not back away from the Camino. Justin’s path of having to physically and emotionally surrender to the aid of those around him is so compelling. From Justin, I was reminded of the potent grace of allowing others to help me, especially when I am at my most vulnerable. I speak on this topic regularly, reminding women that part of The Grace of Yes is to allow ourselves to be helped by others. How easy it is to say, and how hard to actually do!
Justin submits to allowing Patrick to care for him in ways that are not only physically daunting but also personally intimate (such as bathing him, clothing him, feeding him and putting him to bed as one might a beloved child). One might be tempted to see this film as a simple “Patrick helps Justin” movie. In the end, I actually felt that it was Patrick who was even more “pushed” by the journey. Obviously, the physical exertion of the Camino looms large here: muddy, uphill paths; dark nights and long mileage to the next way station; and even the seemingly total lack of accessible accommodations for the disabled. But those logistical obstacles are simply a backdrop for the real work being done in Patrick’s heart and soul.
You may want to watch I’ll Push You twice, as I did, with the intention of seeing the action from the vantage point of both Justin and Patrick exclusively on each viewing journey. There are lessons to be learned from each of these two courageous men that bear deep consideration.
The pushing is mutual. And this is a very, very good thing.
For more information:
- Official movie website
- I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair book
Images copyright I’ll Push You, used with permission