If there's one thing I am learning from boating life, it is that I am not in control! OK, in a superficial way I am. I get up most mornings with a vague plan of where we are headed and what chores need to be done. I don't know how it is for you, but I can happily waste time if I am not focused. Perhaps that isn't even wasting time - boating life is meant to be about slowing down, escaping the rat race and working out what's important in life. To 'be' rather than to 'do'.

So to a certain extent I do have control but what I am really thinking about is the lack of control in my circumstances. For example, Richard and I have a route plan of the direction we are headed and ideally a  framework of time in which to get from A to B but that's when the problems start.

Our first was realising our 'new' boat batteries (less than two years old) were flat and in fact dangerous because one had actually blown. Awaiting replacements and taking the opportunity to install a more powerful invertor delayed us by a week or more.  A bout of Covid unexpectedly stopped us in our tracks and then just as we were on the move again, a swing bridge failed to open and then a lock gate refused to shut!! All these little annoyances remind me of how little control I really have over what I want to do.

Yet, should it matter? Perhaps it  reminds us that in fact we are not in control of our life. At any moment something can happen that totally alters our path. For me, I learnt this when Richard, my husband, had a serious, near fatal bike accident, taking months of rehabilitation. It changed everything but in fact not for the worse, because it taught me what's important in life and not to 'sweat the small stuff'. From it, I learnt just how precious and precarious life is and that what matters is kindness. We received so much love and support following Richard's accident that it made me understand how kind gestures, however small, can make someone else's life so much better. The commandment of God to 'love thy neighbour' came alive as I realised I was vulnerable and in need of help.

I know that an argument against God is that if he exists, why does he allow bad things to happen?  My understanding is that God is not Father Christmas. Just because I believe in him, doesn't mean I am going to have an easy and charmed life. What I do believe though, is that God wants to come alongside us in all that is happening in our lives, good and bad. There's a saying that, because God is invisible, he needs to use our hands and feet to do his work here in earth. That is what I saw, experienced and understood in the aftermath of Richard's accident. I saw God's love in the actions of those around me.

I often feel we are sent to help certain people and that certain people are sent to help us. To my mind that is God at work. I appreciate that for those who don't believe in God this may sound far fetched but with or without belief, we can all show love and kindness to one another. We may not have control over the circumstances we find ourselves in but we can have control over how we respond to them and how consequently we treat one another and how we live out our lives to make the world around us a better place to be.

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About Mary Haines

Mary and her husband Richard now live full time on their 43ft narrowboat Naomhog. Their plan is to travel the waterways March-November and they want to be a 'Listening boat'. "We want to encourage people to tell us their stories because we feel we have time to listen. In this fast paced world listening is not necessarily much valued and is in short supply!"