Ordinary Things

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

This quote has been on my mind a lot lately as I think about SCI’s mission and how we strive to carry out that mission on a day to day basis. Chatting with a seafarer over a cup of coffee, offering a ride into the city, or renting out internet equipment all seem like fairly ordinary things. The love and compassion that go into those simple tasks is what makes all the difference.

I was out ship visiting on Easter Monday, getting back into the swing of things after a holiday weekend spent at home. I started ship visiting around lunch time, because the two ships I was assigned weren’t scheduled to dock until 10 or 11. When I arrived at the first ship which had just docked on the PA side of the river, the seafarers informed me that everyone on board was too busy to speak with me. They were in a unique situation: they were only staying at their current berth for 4 hours, to offload a few containers, then they were shifting to anchorage for two days until there was a berth available at their intended facility, just across the river on the NJ side. Not wanting to be in the way or bother anyone, I left our phone number, promised a visit when they came to the NJ side, and headed down the gangway.

While waiting for the bus to take me back to the security gate, the Chief Mate came rushing up to me, asking if I could provide them internet to have while they’re at anchorage. A quick call to Mesfin confirmed that all of our Wi-Fi units were rented out to other vessels. I apologized profusely, but explained that there was nothing I could do. Chief Mate thanked me for my time, but walked away looking disappointed.

I headed down to my next ship, about a half hour drive away, where I had a short visit with the captain, scheduled a pickup for later that night, and then headed back to the center to fill out paperwork and wrap up for the day.

Mesfin walked into the center a few minutes after me, and as we’re sitting together discussing the day, he gets a call. It’s the agent from the first ship I visited, again requesting Wi-Fi. Mesfin looks at me and says, “I just brought a unit back, do you want to take it down to them? The ship is leaving in less than an hour.” I agree and rush out the door, Wi-Fi in hand, praying that the traffic on Columbus Boulevard isn’t too bad and that I can make it to the ship before it leaves.

I quickly park, get through security, and rush onto the bus that will take me to the ship. The driver says to me, “You know the ship is about to leave right?” As we drive through the terminal, I imagine a dramatic scene on the pier, the ship pulling away, a seafarer reaching out from the ship and me stretching as far as I can over the water to pass him the Wi-Fi unit. We make the hand off at the last second, as the ship pulls away, and the seafarer scrambles to get back on deck, his friends cheering.

I snap back to reality as the bus pulls alongside. The lines are still tied, the gangway is still down. There won’t be any extraordinary scene from an action movie today. I board the ship, explain how to work the Wi-Fi unit, and tell the crew we’ll see them soon.

Back in the van headed back up Columbus Boulevard, I couldn’t help but reflect on how much that Wi-Fi will mean to those seafarers. They’ll be sitting in the middle of the Delaware for the next two days, waiting for a berth. Instead of watching a movie he’s already seen 14 times, the Boson will use his downtime to watch a video of his niece’s recent school concert. Instead of taking a nap, the first engineer will read his kids a bedtime story over skype. Instead of playing cards in the mess, the chief mate can share a laugh with his wife who is hundreds of miles away. Their two days at anchorage can be spent catching up with friends and family who they haven’t talked to for months.

SCI made this possible for them by doing ordinary things: a quick drive down Columbus, a standard bus ride and subsequent routine boarding and hand off. But extraordinary love from SCI’s supporters made those ordinary things possible. And surely there will be extraordinary love felt around the world because of the communications from that ordinary Wi-Fi unit.

“We are not called by God to do extraordinary things, but to do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”

-Trish Johnston, Director of Communications