For spring break my family took a five day Caribbean cruise. One of our stops was a private island off the coast of Haiti owned by Royal Caribbean. As we basked in the sun, sipped on tropical drinks and feasted at the all you could eat buffet, I felt a deep sense of guilt thinking about all the people in Haiti who were suffering from a lack of food, clean water and the lasting devastation of last year’s earthquake. If I could have, I would have taken all that food to the people who really needed it.
As we were standing in line on the Island to get back on the boat, there was a band made up of five men playing your traditional island music. As I looked at them, I realized they were the closest I would come on this trip to the people in Haiti. I only had $20 cash on me so I gave it to my daughter and had her put it in their hat. The lead singer of the band, stopped singing and with the most joyful voice, said “Thank you my lady for you generosity!” Well, what happened next kind of surprised me. The little boy in front of us tugged on his mother’s dress and asked for money to give the men and his mother complied. The same gracious thanks followed his gift. A man in the line behind us followed suit, then a lady in the front of the line and children throughout the line. There was a wave of generosity that swept through that line. It literally brought tears to my eyes. We had all been standing in that line for at least 15 minutes and not a soul had even acknowledged the band. They were back ground noise, a part of the scenery, there for our entertainment. Then suddenly, they represented an entire country of suffering, starving people. God’s spirit swept through that line and gave us eyes to see and it all started with one small gift.
I had a similar experience later that evening. It was 80’s and 90’s night at the night club called The Dungeon. When we arrived not a soul was dancing. This went on for many songs. Great 80’s music with lots of women dancing in their seats and men tapping their toes, but no one was on the dance floor. I finally had had enough and grabbed my husband and drug him onto the dance floor. Well, the only dancing we felt comfortable doing in front of all those people with video camera’s projecting us up on the screen and a spot light on us was the jitterbug. Not exactly fitting for Prince’s song “When Doves Cry” but we made it work. I thought for sure, someone would come rescue us from the spotlight but not a soul joined us.
When we returned somewhat embarrassed to our table, the man at the table in front of us began clapping for us. I went up to him and his wife and said, “Your turn.” He took me up on my challenge, grabbed his wife and said “you have to come to” looking right at me and my husband. So, the four of us entered the dance floor. By the end of the song, the floor was packed and for the next three hours remained that way until my husband and I finally ran out of steam. Everyone wanted to dance but no one wanted to dance alone. Someone had to go first and then invite others to join in. My husband and I were among the worst dancers in that club, but we had not been dancing since college. Eventually, my fear of missing out on this once in a decade opportunity outweighed my fear of looking stupid and I found the courage to go for it. God’s spirit swept through that room and we all overcame our fear of looking foolish and danced our hearts out. But, it all started with one little jitterbug.
I have a seventeen year old daughter. She is beautiful, smart, funny and an all-around joy to be around. However, she is a bit shy. For the first four days of the cruise, I observed as she watched the young men come and go from the piano bar where my family camped out during the sing-a-long time. The same young man came with his family every night, stared at my daughter, looked anxious when she was not with us but never gained the courage to say a word to her. I tried and tried to get her to say something but she wouldn’t.
On the last night of the cruise, the chatty 18 year old across the hall asked me how my cruise was going. I shared with him how much fun we were having and then my lament that my eldest daughter had not met anyone her age. He then extended an invitation to her to join him and the friends he had met on the cruise at the hot tub later that evening. It took a lot of coaxing but she did finally take him up on his offer and had a great time. Without the hospitality of that young stranger, my daughter would have sat in her cabin while the rest of the youth enjoyed a party. It took a lot of courage for that young man to speak to a total stranger and a lot of courage for my daughter to climb into a hot tub filled with people she did not know. However, a spirit of adventure and fun had swept across that ship and everyone wanted to go home having meet new friends and were willing to take a few risks. It all started with a simple act of hospitality.
Mother Teresa said “We can do not great things, only small things with great love.” To the men in Haiti who lovingly shared their musical talents with us, to the people in the line who generously shared their financial resources, to my husband who graciously danced with me, to the people in the night club who shared our love of 80’s music, to the red headed boy who invited my daughter to a party and to all those aboard the Royal Caribbean Navigator who made this past week so special, I just want to say THANK YOU for all the little things!
While I still feel a bit guilty for spending a week in total luxury while so many in our world are suffering, the greater sin would have been not to dance at the party. I think if Jesus would have been on that ship, he would have been the first on the dance floor, the loudest one singing at the piano bar and the one turning water into wine at the party. I am truly blessed to have had this time with my family and thank God for providing us with the means to do so.
May God Bless you all through the little things this Easter.