The memory of the Jewel of the Seas stays with me — that huge, sleek white vessel on which we sailed the vivid blue waters of the Caribbean only two weeks ago. Kathleen and I were with 30 Christian friends from Light and Life Park in Florida, which made for wonderful community while on board.
But the rest of the 2,400 passengers were strangers to us. That meant that in our moving throughout the ship we most often encountered people we didn’t know.
I usually find it easy to make conversation with people I don’t know. So, for example, when I met someone coming down the long, narrow corridors in the private quarters, I offered a friendly greeting. Or when passengers were gathering for a meal or waiting for an elevator, I spoke and sometimes had a brief conversation.
This is what I observed. In most cases, people we don’t know wait to be greeted. It is natural and self-protective to be hesitant in the presence of strangers. But when they hear a warm hello, they tend to respond in kind. That little observation makes me note the obvious: we are created for human relationships; to be human means to be social. And sometimes the first casual words of a greeting penetrate into a stranger’s self-imposed isolation — for their benefit. The simple exchange is actually good for both parties. If you have a different take on that observation, I’d love to hear it.
During the ship’s stop at Grand Cayman Island, this observation about relationships refined itself even more sharply. Our ship cast anchor off shore, and diesel launches carrying passengers plied the distance between ship and shore. Most of our friends went ashore to visit the shops, take a tour, or just look around. Kathleen and I had decided to stay aboard ship.
But our plans were suddenly changed when a crew member phoned our quarters to ask if we had grandchildren on the Island. We knew that two had recently made the move, but we had no way of finding them. To our surprise, we learned that they and their two little children had met the boat and were calling from shore.
We hurried to board a launch and shortly thereafter when we set foot on the dock all four of them were waving eagerly from behind a dividing barrier. There stood granddaughter Kathleen, her husband Doug, Ethan, five, and Justin, three. The little ones rushed into our arms. The parents drove us to their temporary residence where we ate pizza, took pictures and chatted until it was time for us to return to the ship.
Back on board, some of our friends had heard of our good fortune and came to us brimming with delight at what had happened. They thought meeting relatives at a distance and unexpectedly was a rare treat.
The response from several was so warm about these relationships that it told us much about their family values. They seemed more excited about our unexpected meeting than if we had won a flat-screen TV as a door prize somewhere, or been invited to dine with a head of state.
Brief intermittent exchanges with strangers on board ship, unexpected meetings with family members at a great distance from our Canadian dwellings, and pleasant commendations from friends when we were back on ship all have a common ingredient: human relationships that nourish life! When they are blessed with the bond of Christian faith, they have that added ingredient of grace.
Click here to read part 3 in this series.