Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Halfway Night Tradition...

Recently I was reminded in Gretchen Rubin's blog, the Happiness Project, of a tradition I'd learned about many years ago - that of The Halfway Night.

The man who first told me about The Halfway Night was a chaplain to seamen, seamen whose travels took them away from family, friends, community, and culture for months at a time, often in the most rudimentary and bleak of conditions. In a time before cell phones and the Internet, these men often went weeks without news of home or access to the support of loved ones.

In an effort to make these long voyages more tolerable, sailors' families would pack shoebox-sized packages and give them to the Captain or Chief before departure. On the night that marked the halfway point to their destination the Captain would distribute the boxes to the seamen. Each had its own unique gifts and keepsakes - letters from wives and girlfriends, pictures of children, a favourite food, a book to pass the time, razor blades, candy, cigarettes, reminders of activities enjoyed at home. The comfort brought by these packages was immeasurable, both in their usefulness and in their meaning. If you had made it to the halfway point, you were over the worst and could begin counting the days until the voyage was over.

As caregivers, family or professional, we all have long voyages to withstand, be they helping loved ones through painful bouts of chemotherapy or other medical regimens, getting through a particularly trying stretch of night shifts, or tackling a continuing education program after your job has been cut. How nice would it be to have someone turn up on Halfway Night to celebrate and encourage you? And how good would it feel to offer that gift to someone else? Sometimes, all it takes is a little love and acknowledgment to get through even the worst of times.

Photo by BigStock Photos

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