JOHNS: The need for cheerleaders and cruise ship directors

“Once the storm is over, you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain, when you come out of the storm, you won’t be the same person who walked in. That is what this storm is all about.”

— “Kafka on the Shore” by Haruki Murakami


When I was 7, I would beg to watch the show “Outer Limits.”

Most people my age will remember the way the show began: “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We repeat: there is nothing wrong with your television set. You are about to participate in a great adventure.”

That still sends cold chills down my spine. I remember stomping around the house begging to watch it, knowing full well I would end up running down the long expanse of the hallway to my parent’s room.

Sure enough, around midnight, I would run into their room and lightly whisper in Daddy’s ear, “Can I sleep in here?”

Daddy would get up, tuck me in the full-size bed and trudge to my twin bed.

Obviously, after a couple of weeks, my parents refused to let me watch the show because the outcome was always the same.

Plain and simple, I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of the monsters that lurked behind my clothes in the closet so the door had to be shut at all times.

In the family room downstairs, I would hear the constant rocking of my grandmother’s overstuffed rocker. Years later, I realized the sound was the water heater clicking on in the storage room

As siblings often do, we scared each other for sport. We would hide under the beds, jump out of closets, hide in the shower.

Doing all these mischievous antics added fuel to my fear.

No doubt when this pandemic crisis hit, I remembered all the scary things I had forgotten.

I suddenly heard creaking on the stairs.

The dishwasher that never sounded so loud made the glasses and the plates clamor from the jet spray.

Then, the dryer sounded like a huge thump in the hallway.

Just like the snap of my shaking fingers, I was transported back to being 7 years old again.

In a text to a dear friend, I told her in times like these, we need cheerleaders and cruise directors.

An odd comparison, however, both are desperately needed.

Recently, a member of my church, First Christian, started sending daily thoughts to a group of us. Some are serious, some are not.

Frankly, she has been the cheerleader we all have needed. She has kept this chain of laughter, prayer and contemplation a constant for us; our cheerleader during this time of uncertainty and darkness.

I have only been on one cruise, but I do know the importance of having a competent cruise director.

But one does not have to take a cruise to realize that even when you take a trip or symbolically travel the waterways of life, it is important to have that one person to help you navigate.

Storms, such as broken friendships or divorce, hit hard.

Hurricanes, like the loss of spouse or child, will throw a tidal wave over our souls.

But when those billows threaten to drown us, that cruise director throws us a life preserver.

Sometimes the person who saves us from going under is the least likely person we thought would save us.

My charge during this time and after is to be someone’s cheerleader or cruise director.

Sometimes it is as simple as a text or a card that sends a map for uncharted territory.

Let’s face it. The waters we are traveling are choppy and unsure at best. There will be waves. There may be tsunamis.

But at the end of that long hall of darkness, we will have a soft place to land, a cheerleader to urge us where to go and a cruise director to help lead the way.

Lisa Johns is a former teacher and librarian as well as an activist for downtown revitalization.