You may not like cruising. There are days when the ship is making way from one port city to another and you spend the whole day (or a number in a row) at sea. Some people feel constrained, bored, or even listless on these days. Of course, the cruise lines know this, and so they plan activities of all kinds to fill the hours. We took dance lessons, exercised, read, and did much writing on our days “at sea.” But, the most enjoyable experience was meeting people from all over the world. For example, we met Sandy and Fiona from a little town outside Edinburgh, Scotland. (I wanted them to take me back home with them after the cruise because I love Scotland in general and Edinburgh in particular!) Sandy retired from a lifetime of service with an Edinburgh Bank, and they now together operate a small bed and breakfast. They were a delightful couple and they shared with us the drama of the recent Scottish vote for independence and how it had affected them and their country. Then there was Jim and Sherry from the U.S. midwest. Jim spent his life as a methodist pastor. He had ministry scars, but joys as well. We had stories to share, a connection that comes from knowing we have lived some of the same experiences. Now they are active in campus ministry at a university in their city.
We also kept bumping into Frank and Nina from Toronto, Canada. They immigrated to Canada from Asia and Frank has an active practice as a doctor. They love to travel. Frank is into heavy metal bands and action movies, and Nina balances him out with her mild manner and gentle spirit. (I was grateful when I saw Frank and Nina appear on the dance floor because Frank makes me look like a good dancer!) They became fast friends as did the others that we met. Along the way, we asked them to tell us their stories, and listening to them was like opening window to new worlds. We talked politics and faith; we learned about the people of countries we have never visited, and we listen to dreams and tragedies.
One thing we love to do when cruising is to dine at the same time and place each evening. That way we can get to know our waiter and servers. We can slowly learn their stories and connect with them. Our waiter, Rico was from the Philippines, and each night we asked him to teach us a new word from his native language, Tegali. He started us off easy. “Thank you.” “Please.” “Good evening.” These lessons opened the door for him to tell us a little about his country and his people. His assistant, Milagros, is from Peru. She got her name, which means “miracle” in Spanish, because her parents wanted a daughter desperately after they had their first child, a boy. More than ten years later, she showed up. She was their little miracle, hence the name. Milagros was soft spoken and a perfect complement to Rico. Together they made each evening a time of joy.
We are told that life is made up of people, places, and things. I believe that the three are listed in the order of their importance. Life is about people. We met people who shared the good news of what God is doing in their part of the world, people who opened the door and allowed us into their lives, if even for a moment. Perhaps, these moments at sea were some of the best of our moments…because of the people God swept into our lives. On board the ship, on the first sea day, it made me wonder who we might be missing when we are home!