With 24 million people cruising, surprises arise
Page 94-96, Chapter 11:
Throughout the week I made a point to speak to as many of these unique cruisers as time would allow. Christmas was always my favorite time of year, with so many warm memories as a child. These men were not the typical Santa’s helpers hired by the local malls to give the kids a candy cane and send them off to their parents. They didn’t have fake beards or wigs, and their bellies were not overstuffed pillows strapped in by a belt. These men were real Santas. They lived, breathed, and played the part every day, even while on vacation. Their big, puffy beards sometimes had food caught in them after attending one of the many buffet meals. They were humble and gentle souls, willing to listen more than talk.
One Santa whom I will never forget asked me what my story was and how I ended up here on this ship. Without hesitation, I told him everything as if he were a priest or a psychologist. I included my struggles throughout high school, trying to live up to my parents’ expectations, and watching my siblings all having successful careers. I felt like the black sheep of the family. He listened intently while I told him of my mother’s suicide and my bouts of depression while trying to make my way through this life.
A few tears were shed, along with a few laughs, over those hours of confession. He was seated in an extremely tall chair—something you might see in an European castle. I was sitting across from him on a couch built for two. Bowing my head down while telling the story of my mom, I didn’t see him stand up but did feel his presence as he sat next to me on the couch and put his arm around my shoulders with a reassuring grip.
“My son,” he said in a deep, fatherly tone. “Life isn’t easy. It may appear that some just skate through life without a care in the world, but we all have struggles and difficulties. No one gets through this life unscathed. Each thing we go through, good or bad, must become a learning experience. Good things you repeat. Bad things you avoid. Not everyone is dealt the same hand; you just must play with the hand that God has dealt you,” he said, trying not to be too religious as he didn’t know my convictions or faith. He went on to say, “Remember, although your mom and dad are gone, they are still with you in spirit. You may not see them, but they are here watching over you, sending you some signs, and guiding you in the right direction. Look for those signs, talk to them, and pray every day, and you will feel stronger when the next challenge hits you. When you are feeling down and out, go volunteer and do something good for someone else. The reward you get from this will fill your heart, making you a better person. Life is not about money, success, or careers; it’s about living and being a good person. Help others when you can. No matter your job or how much money you have in the bank when you die, all that material stuff does not matter. But if you have made a difference by changing somebody’s life, that is what matters.” Those few hours did change my life because he changed my outlook on the journey I was on.