Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cruise Connections

Ever since she could speak – or so it seems – my daughter Clare has asked to go on a cruise. My husband, Jeff, would rather stick a fork in his eye than subject himself to being “trapped on a floating hotel with two thousand drunk strangers.” Me, I don’t mind the floating hotel part, but the frat party atmosphere I imagined as being fundamental to a cruise was something I outgrew in my 20s…when I could often be found at the center of many a chugging contest.

This past February, with Clare’s 13th birthday looming and the pressure mounting to top her previous birthday celebration (think: stretch limo filled with girls in “Disney Princess Reject” costumes laughing and screaming and singing their way around Boulder:, I stumbled upon 300,000 credit card reward points I didn’t know I had. 

Helllloooo, Carnival Cruise Lines and Happy Birthday, Clare! 

Floating Hotel, here we come!
Within hours, I had booked flights to Los Angeles, a cruise to Mexico, even paid the standard gratuities – all with points. Clare and I left last Monday – coincidentally Jeff’s birthday; I told him his birthday gift was that he didn’t have to go with us. 

To my surprise, I discovered that while, yes, half the boat seemed to be liquored up before departure, the other half were Mormons, able to balance out the more alcohol-prone passengers. Clare and I were assigned to a dinner table with six people: four girls who had recently graduated from high school and two moms, all of them Mormon. 

While I quickly learned that our religious beliefs were quite different, I peppered each of them with questions to discover something we might have in common, a connection of some sort. Why? Because I truly believe that if we dig deep enough we can find some overlapping experience, belief, desire, or value with anyone, regardless of our obvious differences.

One of the moms, Heather, asked me what I did for a living and, well, you know where this conversation went: the life-saving impact of volunteer blood donors. Immediately, one of the young women’s eyes lit up, and while her friends’ expressions reflected their distaste for needles, Stacy told me that she had recently made her very first blood donation. I asked her how old she was. “Seventeen,” she said. I told her that I got to meet a group of my actual blood donors once and that one of them was also only seventeen when she had decided to participate in her high school’s blood drive and her blood then made its way to my bedside in the ICU. I told her how each one of my blood donors had made it possible for me to hang out longer on earth, even to be on this cruise with my daughter. I told her that without every single one of those pints of blood I received, the adorable kid sitting next to me (yes, Clare blushed) would be growing up without a mom.

At that point, Stacy seemed to understand that by sharing the story of how I got to personally thank some of my blood donors I was actually thanking her on behalf of her blood recipient. And she got it. Sure, it was only an hour of her time, and sure, a lot of kids had done it. But now she seemed to understand how amazing and generous her gift of blood had been. She might have even understood that a connection – if only in spirit – is forged with every pint of blood that someone chooses to donate anonymously. The way I see it, all those patients in need of blood transfusions are really just “friends we’ve never met.” And who wouldn’t want to help a friend?

No matter our politics, religion, socio-economic status, age, musical tastes, or whether we prefer our Philly cheesesteaks “wit Whiz” or “widdout,” blood – both the giving and the receiving of it – is one of the most universal connections we will ever experience in life. How cool is that?

Blood-red Virgin Daiquiris and Stephen King--For the Non-Mormon, Non-Drunk Passengers

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Download a PDF of the first 4 chapters of Lauren's memoir, Zuzu's Petals: A True Story of Second Chances, free.  Click here and go to the link below the "Buy the Book" button.  Zuzu's Petals is also available on Kindle and Nook.  Hardcover signed and inscribed copies are available at Happy reading!