Meeting Carolina a world away from home
You know how much I love to travel. As I explained here, when you leave your comfort zone and your daily routine and open yourself up to the world, you can learn all kinds of new things and meet people who will leave a lasting impression on your life, who will help you grow and evolve as a person.
During our recent MSC cruise, my kids learned an important life lesson: that not all families have the same good fortune to be together as we do. Let me explain.
One of the advantages of a cruise is that often, during the evenings, you get to know the same servers. Since we’re a bit of a foodie family, we preferred to have our meals in the dining room rather than the buffet. So during our trip, as the week went on, we developed a connection with our servers. I have to tell you that every evening, Philippe made a major effort to speak only in Spanish, to the delight of the service team. You know how he is, with his enthusiasm and air of the showman… it was pretty amusing.
On our last night, we wondered what was next for our server, Carolina. She explained that she had 2 months left on her contract (she was in her sixth month on board the ship) and then she would be off for 3 months, returning to her home in Honduras.
As we chatted, the kids asked if she had family at home. She told us she has a son, age 7, waiting for her there. Her answer gave us all a moment’s pause, as we took in her meaning and did the math. She wasn’t just spending days or weeks away from her child, but MONTHS.
It still gives me chills to think about it.
We quickly changed the subject, as her eyes filled with tears as she told us how much she was looking forward to seeing her son.
She was making a huge sacrifice for her family in order to give them a better life.
After she left the table, Philippe burst into tears, in distress at her story. I completely understood his reaction: in his mind, it would be unthinkable to go eight months without seeing me. Her situation is vastly different from our reality.
We took the opportunity to have a serious and important conversation about the different realities for families around the world. On the one hand, when we’re on an all-inclusive cruise, I sometimes feel a little uneasy knowing the staff work crazy hours and are often far from home. But on the other hand, what if these jobs didn’t exist? For some, these jobs allow them to give their families a better life. Both sides of the arguments can be debated at length.
This chance meeting with Carolina and our discussion about it brought home an essential truth for us. Even if we feel we’re aware of how lucky we are and we are a thankful family, sitting around the table looking at one another, we experienced a moment of true gratitude, for many reasons.
My dear Carolina, I know the chances that you will see this blog post are slim, but I want you to know how much meeting you touched our family. Your good humour and kindness charmed us from the start, and when we got to know you better, we were struck by your resilience, your huge heart and the ultimate sacrifice you are making for your family.
I firmly believe there are no coincidences in life, and our meeting you surely wasn’t by chance.
A mother who was deeply moved by having met you