Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Living on a Boat for Two Years Shaped My Life

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I have concerns about our culture and its need for "comfort" above all else. Entitlement is running rampant. How are we building character?
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;
Romans 5:3-4
Adventures - my home in 1994
When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents ran into financial trouble and we had to sell our house and move on to a 48-foot sailboat named Adventures. Sounds exotic, but it was anything but. We were out on a mooring and had a nasty El NiƱo that year. I can remember the rain soaking me to my socks while picking up family members at the dock via our dingy. You could say we were early adopters though, since we were the only ones I knew who had pagers. To get home, we had to drop a quarter in the 15th street pay phone, send a code of "15", and hope whoever we paged wasn't taking a nap.

There were 5 of us on board. My brother was off to college, my sister and I were two years apart and my little brother (11 years younger) was there along with my parents. We didn't have much money and sometimes used the oven to heat the boat. I got used to reading and doing homework by oil lamp. I'll never forget the cold showers. By a sick twist of fate, I also broke my arm in half that year (I still have two plates and 11 screws in there). We had no TV and little entertainment. Prior to 1995, I hated reading. But that summer I started with Tom Clancy novels and the Dark Tower series and ended up reading 13 books. I found a love for reading that has served me to this day.

I learned how to make due with what I have. I learned some of the true values of life. One Christmas on that boat, having no money, we all wrote each other letters detailing how much we love, respect and appreciate one another. To this day, that was one of the best Christmas I've ever had.

Real life, the love you have for family and friends, doesn't change whether you are with or without money. What does change (if you let it) is your character and your sense of entitlement.

That's a lesson I could only learn having been with money and without it. True character can't be bought or borrowed. It has to be earned via the experiences of life. Don't complain about your circumstances. Instead, look for opportunities to implement perseverance. Take note of the character you're building and ask yourself if it could be built any other way.

You can only know what you're made of when you're truly in the fire. Don't jump out too quickly. Comfort isn't always worth the price you'll pay in the long run to miss out on the character you need.

27 comments:

Annette said...

Love it. Thanks for sharing.

Joel Fortner said...

"Comfort isn't always worth the price you'll pay in the long run to miss out on the character you need." Well said!

John Eberle said...

Reminds me of being in a trailer for three years with my young family. Some of the best memories... No money but lots of love...

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Joel!

Ann Neff said...

Very rich writing. Thanks for sharing this, Luke.

Luke Stokes said...

Thank you, Aunt Ann! I really appreciate that. I've been enjoying blogging lately and it really means a lot to hear such encouraging comments.

Andy Matthews said...

Wow...

I wish I could have experienced something like that. Honestly. Lots of crap in there, but some gold as well. Thanks for sharing Luke.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Andy. Yeah, it's funny how often we miss the gold being refined out of all the crap while we're in the crucible.

Brett F said...

Funny how seemingly universal the appreciation of hot water becomes after periods like this. Almost 10 years ago I spent ~9 months on an indie tour that seems to have firmly moved hot water from "normal" to "luxury of luxuries" in my mind.

That said though, I just met a guy who spent a full year on a (ridiculously) tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands to teach English. For the first three months he had basically no real human contact, and he didn't see his own reflection for the entire time. No power, no friends, no books. His eyes took on an almost otherworldly depth when he spoke of the experience.

Back to you though: I think the most bizarre lasting benefit you've gained from it may be your ability to work on your computer in (what I find to be) horribly contorted positions ;)

danblackonleadership said...

This must have been an experience. Though it might have seemed like an undesirable situation it sounds like it turned out to be good.


Hard or difficult times seem to bring out the true character of a person. Great post.

Luke Stokes said...

Yeah, hot water is seriously so awesome. Every once in a while the pilot light gets blown out and as the water heater empties of it's 1st world goodness as I quicken my showering pace, I'm transported back to that boat.

3 months? Wow. That sounds like an experience... all though, for us, maybe not looking at our own reflection might do us some good for our self esteem. ;-)

You might be right about that benefit. Though I do love my recliner (which I'm sitting on right now, tbh).

Thanks for commenting, Brett.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Dan!

Travis Robertson said...

Finally got around to reading this (sorry, crazy week) and I'm VERY glad I did. This was a great post, Luke. I can say with honesty that some of the times I'm most grateful for are those where I faced the hardest and darkest days. It was in those times that character was forged and that I found out who I am and who God is and just what He's capable of.

Great reminder.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Travis! That's so true. We all want victories but so quickly forget that a victory requires a battle. As you said, I love how it shows us not only what we're made of, but also how incredible God is.

David Johnston said...

Wow. I love the Romans verses. It's interesting how heartfelt gifts like your Christmas letters are the ones you remember the most. It's awesome you were able to grow from this difficult time.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks David. Yeah, I do think the gifts that matter most are ones that reinforce our basic need to be loved and respected. "Normal" gifts can do that also, but there's something special about time invested in specifically communicating how much we value someone.

It's funny how the "growing" part was more obvious ten years later. As I started to analyze why I respond to things in certain ways, I was able to track it back to that time. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Rocco Carzo said...

I recently turned down Teach for America to pursue a website I started while in college...leaving w/ me no paying job. That was incredibly difficult at first, but now I've finally started to appreciate the tough times -- and the fact I'm getting through them, something I'm not sure many of peers could handle as well. Reading this further inspired me to keep looking ahead and making the most of what I do have.

Thanks!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks for commenting, Rocco. You might enjoy reading "Quitter" by Jon Acuff. I have a blog post about leaving my day job to pursue my business full time you might also find useful (along with a few others on my first impressions about working from home).

Good luck with BookDecay, it sounds like a great idea.

Adam said...

Love this. Truth man. So often when the times get tough people always look for the quick and easy way out. The tough times are what makes and molds a man. I had some good lessons in this over the summer.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Adam! Have you blogged about those lessons? If so, please share a link.

Adam said...

I have not. They are coming though.

Lance said...

Luke, I've saved this post and re-read it about 5 times since you posted. Man, there's so much here that got my mind and heart going - I had to jump in!

First, there's incredible beauty here. I love your discussion in the comments with Andy on refining the gold out of the crap. In so many ways, that is a killer metaphor for our day to day lives. The refining process is worth it, but how often do we (I) fail to realize it? And we usually certainly don't realize it at the time (i.e. I bet you were super annoyed at having to page someone to get home!)

And second - the incredible STORY factor. Seriously - what a cool memory. It reminds me of my favorite post by Jon Acuff. He writes about how they chose their new house; it was one of those opportunities that give you the chance to choose "easy" / the status quo... or how you can choose "lore." (http://www.jonacuff.com/blog/my-favorite-way-to-make-decisions/)

Whether or not your parents intentionally gave you lore in living on a boat, you got an awesome story out of it - lore won out. I'd love to hear more about it!

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Lance :)

And YES, I love that post. I had forgotten about it though, thanks so much for reminding me.

Lore did win, I guess... but that certainly wasn't my parents' intention. I think few parents plan to go broke and manage the consequences that result. That's why I was so passionate about working with you for Dave. What you do matters SO MUCH. That said, God redeems ALL things for those who are called according to His purposes, no matter how bleak they may seem.

There are probably more stories I could tell about living on that boat... the sunrises and sunsets alone were amazing. I'll think about it some more and see what else formed that I probably take for granted now.

Thanks for commenting.

Luke Stokes said...

Thanks Annette!

Luke Stokes said...

I need to hear that story, Uncle John. :)

Annenelson54 said...

Just happened to run across your site. I like what you had to say about the lessons learned and how your character developed in such a positive way. Thank you for sharing it. I wish everyone would learn from your experiences.

Luke Stokes said...

Thank you! I really appreciate your comments. :)