The table in the salon of the boat they call home is covered with loaves of bread, peanut butter, cookies, bags of apples and bunches of bananas. A local Thrifty’s store donated more than a hundred clear bags for the hand-outs.
The couple easily trade roles as they make sandwiches, stuff bags, and get ready to distribute a meal among the homeless of Victoria, BC. Each bag also has a $5 bill. “It’s not really giving. It’s receiving,” he says, referring to gratitude shown by those who appreciate the meal, and how that gratitude enhances their own lives, increases their own appreciation of what they have, including each other.
They do not want their names used, nor the name of their boat. They are not looking for credit or acclaim, but do this because … well, because, this is what they do. This is who they are. In Mexico, they came upon a woman who housed an extended family of unfortunates. His eyes moisten as he describes the Alzheimer’s, the poverty, men sleeping on the roof because that was the only space left, the effort just to stay alive. The Canadian couple reached out and helped out, and received in return a small childlike collage of thanks, on a single sheet of paper. A treasure, worth more than any framed fine art. Then he smiles when he says that the house, the family, the Mexican woman who cares selflessly for a hundred others, have become the “project” of a group of cruisers in that area.
Perhaps, cruisers they aren’t so much away from home, as they are at home wherever they are. A community without borders.
But this is here and this is now and there are bags waiting to be filled with sandwiches still to make. She takes over because he is talking, and cheerfully admits he’s not great at multi-tasking. A guy-deficit, widely recognized.
As cruisers, the couple lands squarely in the “plan every detail, then prepare for contingencies” end of the spectrum. A look inside their boat makes this clear. He has just finished installing new freezer plates. This included a rebuild of the box beneath Corian counters that he built, with beautifully coved fiddle rails. The install of their diesel heater, with it’s glass tank-level indicator, polished fittings and clean lines, looks hospital-grade.
They gave a presentation to the Bluewater Cruising Association months ago. They were as prepared for their talk as they were for their trip. She did the first half, he did the second. Partnership. The text was read, but so well done it seemed fresh. Polished and organized. Much like their sandwich operation, which is what it takes to make and distribute 64 sandwiches in the cabin of a boat. But they insist it’s worth it. They set aside $100 each month for projects such as this.
After sandwiches are made, they stop by another boat to share another moment of gratitude; photos of their grandson and the success of their son, who had suffered a serious injury years ago, but is now a professional arborist. They are thankful. But that was then, this is now, and now is about giving. And receiving, they emphasize again.
“We went up to the park, over there, by the cemetery,” he says. “Two men were talking, maybe arguing, a lot of the ‘F-word.’ But when we started to hand them a bag, each of them said ‘Give it to him.’ They were more concerned about each other. We told them we had one for each of them. They were so grateful, they apologized for their language, it was…” he stopped. Enough said. They saw, over and over, this willingness to share from those who had barely enough.
They planned to go out again in the evening, because during the day it’s harder to find those in need of a sandwich and a $5 bill. Those in need are not welcome downtown during daylight hours, so they will be found sometime closer to dark. Then they will receive a sandwich from strangers, a smile for no reason and a little bit of brightness, and will give a gift of gratitude in return.