How do you share a joy in a way that avoids raising mixed emotions in others? People know I serve as a chaplain on cruise ships, so they’re always asking, “What are your next travel plans?” When I tell them I’ve been assigned to a round-the-world cruise, they’re genuinely happy to hear it. But often they’ll add something like, “How did you find such a cushy gig?” or “How do I get in on this deal?” or “Chaplain –huh! ‘Sounds like just one big vacation to me!” Then, any explanation I try to give is only met with more jibes and further scoffing!
Of course it’s true that these chaplaincy opportunities are sheer gift. It’s also true that much of the time I’m working hard in this aboard-ship ministry, and happily so. But nobody wants to hear that — they’re already indulging in their own fantasy of what it must be like — all self-indulgence and holy hypocrisy. I’m sure it’s all in good fun, but there are times when I catch a hint of personal longing, maybe even regret, in people’s reactions. Sometimes I reply, “It would be great to have you come on the cruise with us,” but, to some, that can sound almost disingenuous because it’s so unlikely a prospect. Mostly I just smile, do my best to enjoy the ribbing, and move on to other things.
So how do you tell people, when they ask, of your good fortune without causing others’ discomfort? I don’t quite know, and wish I did. All I can think of is to respond from the heart and say that I feel deeply blessed and very grateful. And that’s no fantasy. That’s the truth.