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Wednesday, 29 July 2015

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‘People do not have to live aboard The World to be rich’

SIR – Are You Rich...? I had the good fortune of visiting your beautiful port a few days back. My husband and I were among those aboard The World.

The World on our doorstep: The cruise liner moored off Whitehaven

We have been lucky enough to have sailed the seven seas aboard this ship calling in on some of the most celebrated and famous cities, those on everyone’s tried and true itineraries, like Rio and Hong Kong. Our floating community, unlike other ships, travels the world at a much more leisurely pace with the luxury of calling in on undiscovered gems, oft-overlooked opportunities, and tucked away towns rich with history. Whitehaven is just one of those wonderful discoveries.

Your eager community greeted us fondly. So many people showed up with kids and cameras, smiles and warm handshakes. Among these many friendly faces, I’ll always remember that of a darling little girl.

As I got off the tender the first day, the crowd of local people eagerly awaited our arrival from behind the wire fence erected on the pier. This type of barricade is standard to comply with security measures now necessary worldwide, post September 11. We understand and accept its necessity but have never been comfortable with this separation from such a welcoming group. Nonetheless, as my husband and I approached the crowd a tiny little girl of maybe five years old broke free and ran toward me. She had a crown of curls, a glowing smile and a few missing teeth. As you stood knee-high to me, she asked with wide-eyed curiosity, “Are you rich?”

I paused. What is the right answer? How can I respond, especially now that other children had gathered and the adults seemed interested in my reply? In some people’s eyes, we are rich. We know that. Through our hard efforts we’ve been able to adopt this curious life of living at sea, so we know we are fortunate. But, what must I tell this darling child?

I know this community’s history. The mining industry where people laboured long and hard in the roughest of conditions, in the toughest of times. I learned about the Screen Lasses who are at long last celebrated as an integral component of this industry’s success. We heard about the strong faith that brought you through the darkest of days. And our guide spoke of the strength of family and friends. We discovered the strong fibres that were woven together to create all that we saw in Whitehaven.

And we learned how all this steeled you during recent times. We know of the tragedy you’ve endured. Yet we saw how this mining community pulled itself together and welcomed us.

My answer to that little girl began with a question. I asked if these other children were her brothers and sisters. She replied, “yes”. I asked if she had many friends. Again, she said, “yes”. So I told her that in many people’s eyes, she herself was rich, very rich as judged by those who have neither friends nor family.

Wealth comes in many ways. She is blessed with a richness some can only envy. I trust she’ll know that some day. And I trust the warm embrace of family and friends is a Whitehaven trait that will not soon wane. Thank you for your warm welcome.


The World


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