Tuesday, June 28, 2005


This past week I was able to spend sometime away from the office and enjoy a family vacation. Our week consisted of a week on a cruise ship in Alaska. The vacation was a gift from my in-laws celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. In total there were 16 of us on this trip. To say the least it was an adventure!

I could spend pages writing about life on a ship. I could spend even more pages writing about the sites we saw in Alaska. I could probably write a book about spending the week with the in-laws and all our quirkiness. Instead I wanted to write about something unique and quite extraordinary that I experienced in Alaska.

While you are on the ship you are given the opportunity to explore Alaska through a collection of different excursions. Unfortunately many of these excursions are not cheap. Some are crazy expense! At the port of Skagway my youngest daughter and I went on an excursion in the Yukon (Canada). This excursion consisted of a trip on a bus seeing the country and crossing the border from Alaska into Canada. The bus ride took over an hour. When we finally reached our destination we went horseback riding and later we went canoeing. The scenery was fantastic!

But the horseback riding and canoeing were not the unique experience I wanted to share. While on the bus ride to Canada our bus driver told us all about the history of the area. We learned about the miners that tried to strike it rich in the area. We heard about the successes and the failures. The bus driver talked about glaziers and shared tons of facts he knew about them. But even this was not the unique experience I wanted to share.

Our bus driver, English Doug was a very friendly fellow. What was unique was his willingness to share his life with us. He told us what brought him from the UK to Alaska; he is a lover of history and of the forestry service. On the trip back to the ship he took us by his home to show us where he lived. It turns out English Doug lives across from the school, years K through 12, all on one campus. Although we did not have time he did invite us back for tea, if we were ever in Alaska again. I really think he meant it too! Not only did Doug share his life through story, he had picture albums on the bus to show us. One album consisted of pictures of his wedding four years ago.

I thought this entire event real weird, except that on Sunday we had another unique experience that was similar to our contact with English Doug. On Sunday we arrived at Steward and then took a train to Anchorage to catch our flight home. The train was a very, very slow four hour ride. Anytime we spotted a wild animal the train came to a stop so that everyone on board could see the moose, or the goat, or a bald eagle. But even this was not the unique experience.

On the train our travel guide (I did not learn her name) was a young lady that grew up locally in Alaska, she was only 17 and had just graduated from high school. What was unique was her willingness to share her life with us. It turns out that being a travel guide is a job that many graduating seniors seek after, and our travel guide told us what the requirements were for getting the job. She needed to maintain a 2.50 grade point average. She also had to be recommended by her counselors and teachers. She also had to complete six months of travel guide school. She was very proud of her accomplishments. And like English Doug, she too brought her memories on the train to share. She had two albums, one was her senior project titled, “Flora and Fauna of Alaska.” The other was a collection of pictures of her life.

At first I thought this was also weird and laughed it off. But as I think more abut it I am appreciating the fact that English Doug and the young lady on the train are allowing me to be part of their life. Neither looked at our appearances. Neither was concerned about our income. Neither asked about our faith or religious beliefs. I really feel that both invited me into their lives with open arms.

So my lesson is that I would be as open to others as English Doug and this young lady. I hope to make up a photo album of my life. I look forward to sharing my life with strangers. I pray that I would not look at their appearances, or their financial status, or at their faith or religious beliefs. I want to be able to invite others into my life with open arms.