Lives in the Balance

We’d been aboard the cruise ship for fifteen days. This, the sixteenth, our last day prior to disembarking in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Relaxation our goal, we never got off the ship. We simply explored this glorious vessel. Marveled at her sculptures, paintings, photographic art; and her six fine dining rooms, each different in décor. We enjoyed delicious entrées and delectable desserts. Our stateroom had a king-size bed and large bathroom with rain shower and soaking tub.

And then, on this sixteenth day, the Captain’s announcement: There is a raft on our starboard side with sixteen refugees. We will remain near them for approximately three hours until the U.S. Coastguard comes to their aid. We are committed to the safety of everyone at sea. Through binoculars I watched a green rubber raft bobbing in white capped waves. Four oars floundered, trying to propel and steer the raft. Desperate people struggled to survive against the elements.

I’ve read articles, seen news clips, about refugees plodding across and through unforgiving terrain. But nothing compared to seeing this from my cruise ship balcony. The juxta-positioning of my life at that moment, the privileged lives of everyone on the cruise ship, to what was happening before my eyes. Heart-wrenching. It started to drizzle and a rainbow appeared, arcing over the raft. I immediately thought of it as a metaphor for hope. These people, hunched against the wind, shoving four wooden paddles through the teeming ocean, desperate to overcome the insurmountable, seeking a better life, with God knows what going through their minds. And me standing there, so privileged, that I could formulate poetic thoughts and think metaphorically.

fire hydrants gush
kids splash, jump in ghetto streets –
country club pool soothes

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday. Frank asks us to write something in relation to Thanksgiving or being thankful. We just returned from a Caribbean cruise on Celebrity’s newest ship, the Apex. The ship is stunningly beautiful. On the last day at sea, what I’ve written about in this haibun happened. Watching the refugees, I suddenly understood how privileged I am. I prayed for these poor souls, hoping they survive their treacherous journey. We could only surmise they left Cuba to get to Florida’s shores. Watching them, from a cruise ship balcony, I realized how fortunate and how blessed I am. Thankful for every day. Thankful for freedom. Thankful for a warm bed and food. Privileged to afford a cruise. Humbled to watch this scene unfold.
Photos all taken on our cruise.

11 thoughts on “Lives in the Balance

  1. Kelly MacKay November 22, 2021 / 7:06 pm

    It is a humbling when you realize how luck you are compared to most. I too have had an Aha moment when I was in Kenya and drove thru the slum of Kibera. It was quite a gut check.


  2. Glenn A. Buttkus November 22, 2021 / 7:28 pm

    We live in a country where everyone has a pocketful of liberty. The pandemic, and the sludge left by Trump still colors my moods, but that one-legged veteran in rags at the freeway on ramp today snapped me out of my pity party. Good on you, Lil, for having the courage to really assess your life.


  3. Adda November 22, 2021 / 7:55 pm

    A very humbling experience. Yes, I am very fortunate to live where I live and have what I have. Thank you for sharing as it makes me think about what Thanksgiving is truly about.


  4. VJ Knutson November 22, 2021 / 8:28 pm

    Oh wow! I hope they all made it to safety. Really gives us perspective.


  5. rothpoetry November 22, 2021 / 9:30 pm

    What an interesting Haibun, Lillian. The contrast in life positions is very striking. We have no idea how privileged we are here in the US. I think about that every night when I craw into my bed! Very well done!


  6. Ain Starlingsson, forestbathing hermit November 22, 2021 / 10:19 pm

    Very interesting haibun, so sincerely told, which to me is a hallmark of great haibun writing. You caught the mood well with your haiku too, which fits well. In Britain these refugees arriving by boats are used as a political football to play with and stir cheap sentiment from parts of a populace, so your words were such a tonic in that respect, too, positive, questioning instead of blaming.


  7. Joyce November 23, 2021 / 2:39 am

    A sight you will never forget, and always wonder what happened to those people.


  8. Beverly Crawford November 23, 2021 / 11:53 am

    We all need such a “come to Jesus moment”, when we’re smacked up side the head with the luxuries we take so for granted when so many are suffering with so little. Beautifully written, Lillian. Thank you for sharing.


  9. Björn Rudberg (brudberg) November 23, 2021 / 3:40 pm

    I think that most people who have to see and feel the contrast would soften a bit. I wonder what happened to the refugees after the coast guard took them… a great haibun


  10. ben Alexander November 27, 2021 / 12:16 pm

    Wow – Lillian. You have some amazing life experiences to share. This is quite a story!



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