What difference do we make?

Thoughts on sail training by Bryce Potter 

It has been a very, very long time since I had any hope for my
country.  Today, one day before the swearing-in of a new govern- 
ment, I have hope again.  Hope that we will see a step beyond the
petty selfishness that drives us.  Hope that we will learn to live for
the benefit of all, rather than only the benefit of ourselves.  Hope
that one day, we will learn to live in a way that will benefit the
whole planet, not just our own little corner of it.  Am I a tree hug- 
ger?  Fish hugger?   Hell yeah.  But I’m a people hugger, too.
We all matter.

What does this have to do with sailing?  Everything.  As sailors we
have a unique ability to influence minds, particularly young
ones.  We teach them every moment that we are in contact with
them, whether we want to or not, whether we intend to or not.
They see everything:  Every action, every thought,
every emotion.  And they learn from us; we are their role models. 

What do you teach them? Do you teach them that life
is about selfishness?  That it is about getting what YOU want?  Are
they a burden for you?  Do you count down the minutes until they
finally leave and you can rush off to the bar?

Or do you teach them that life is full of joy and wonder?  That
“work” can also be fun?  Are you happy to see them?  Do 
you approach each moment with the realization that the next words
out of your mouth could affect someone else’s life in a profoundly
positive way? 

As sailors, we are all educators, and we are all role models, no mat- 
ter what our job titles may be.  People look up to us.  People dream
of doing what we do every day.  Yes, people even fantasize 
about us.  And yet, at the end of the day, what do we do?  We
work long hours, day after day, the food is often mediocre and
sometimes downright terrible, and the financial rewards are bleak
for the amount of responsibility that we carry.

But we love it!  We are a living example to people 
that money, a house, a car, and a secure, mind- 
numbing job need not be the root of all happi- 
ness.  I’ll never forget stepping aboard Lady Washington as
guest crew when I was a brand spankin’ new tall ship sailor.  The
camaraderie, esprit de corps, and overall fun factor of the crew
hung in the air.  It was palpable.  They were a CREW!  They
were good, and everyone could see it.  They didn’t need the usual
trappings of “success” to make themselves happy or shore up
their confidence.  They were part of a team, a good team, and
they knew it.  They were happy, proud of their ship and eager to
share it with everyone.

This, then, is our mission:  To teach people to LIVE!  Yeah,
it’s fun, but fun coupled with genuine accomplishment.  With
constant learning.   With a purpose beyond our own selfish
goals.  That’s what we sail for.  That’s what we have to convey to
every single person who steps upon our decks or crosses our
bow.  We have fun working and living hard for something be- 
yond ourselves, something greater than ourselves, and we all
win.  There is no room for selfishness on a tall ship.  Sure, we
might act like prima donnas sometimes, but when the wind pipes
up and someone’s riding a bucking jib, we all pile out into the
head rig and help them. Period.

We are the custodians of something which is in short supply in
our world today.  Selflessness. We know what it means to put the
good of the whole ahead of our own wants.  Anyone who laughs
when they hear, “…some kind of hypnotism!”
and knows exactly what old Irving means has the potential to be a
teacher of the highest caliber.  We have a responsibility to fulfill
that potential.  We all make a difference, 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week, whether we want to or not. 

What kind of difference will you make today?

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