The sound of gentle waves lapped upon the sides of our vessel. The moon was lit, wisps of clouds lined the sky. A horrible squall had just unleashed upon us. Our adrenaline had not yet dissipated, and we were checking our equipment for damage or loss. The storm that had just occurred had rattled us young skippers, but the captain appeared unphased. The captain had encountered many storms in the past, and this one, while seemingly unparalleled, had not nicked his esteem.
Soaked to the bone…cold…wary, I looked at my mates, only to find them in the same condition. Some worse. Had the storm truly passed? Was another following behind? The eerie stillness of the night gave me pause. I trustfully progressed toward our captain. Hoping for some solace, encouraging word, respite from the chaos. His eyes gainfully gazed ahead. He hadn’t noticed my approach. “Captain,” I quiveringly spoke, “I think the crew is ok. Our equipment is mostly unscathed.” The Captain responded, “Hmmph”, acknowledging my comments. “Captain, the crew…I mean we…ummm…we’re pretty shook up. We’ve never seen a storm like that. Are we going to be ok? I mean…do you think another one is coming?…”
The Captain shifted his gaze from upon the calming seas to connect to me…eye to eye. I froze. I was unsure at that moment of many things. Why had I signed up for this? Was I truly cut out to be a seaman? I thought I had more courage than this, I mean, it was just a storm! “Cadet” he began, his voice firm, yet gentle. “I have sailed this vessel for longer than you care to know. Through storms, squalls, rain, hail and waves higher than the crest of the largest structure in your mind. I have navigated these seas through pestilence, lack of food, no wind and indeed the darkest nights. And…I have lost no men. All have returned to their homes, to their families, to dry land. The storm we just encountered, while powerful, was only intended to make you a stronger person. If we only navigated calm seas, only sailed with plenty, and never knew a storm…what purpose would that fill? It’s through the storms that ship mates are made. It’s through the storms that we learn the most. It’s through the storms that we are better braced to take on life’s next challenge. Now, get back there and check the hull! Get your crew in line and get any repairs needed done yesterday! Move!”
I promptly turned with strict commitment to do the Captain’s bidding. I would calm the crew. I would order the repairs started and complete. He was trusting me. I wouldn’t let him down.
I reflected on his words. “The storms make you stronger.” Sensing the depths of this wisdom, I couldn’t help but think through past ‘storms’ I had encountered. Relationships tested, abrupt job changes, health scares. While hard, seemingly insurmountable at the time…all to make me stronger. I took a deep breath and started down the wooden stairs. By this time, the wisps of clouds now hazily blocked the moon from sight. In the faint light of the flickering candles on the sides of our vessel, I could still see the fear of many of the crew. I gathered them around as I mentally sorted through an impromptu speech that would help calm their fears.
Faintly…in the distance…a rumble of thunder…