From Chicken Soup for the Father & Daughter Soul

Safe Harbors and Sailing Ships

When a person is down in the world, an ounce of help is worth a pound of preaching.

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

I had been a registered nurse for about a year when I decided to move from my home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to take a job at a veteran’s hospital in Prescott, Arizona. It was a lonely time—my first venture away from home.

I spent many evenings alone in my small apartment worrying about how I would achieve my goals and wondering if the move had been the right decision for me. I often thought it might have been better if I had stayed in Milwaukee.

As I sat on my secondhand sofa, eating my dinner from a burger bag, I thought about home. I pictured myself in the kitchen with my mom, making delicious strawberry jams and grape jellies. Later, I imagined myself sitting at the table with my mom and dad, and my brothers and sister, eating warm apple cobbler topped with dairy-fresh whipped cream. I missed the warmth of home and its love and security.

One day, I was feeling particularly blue. Although I loved my job, my heart ached for my loved ones. Perhaps it would be better if I moved back home, I reasoned.

That morning at work I was surprised to receive a package in the mail from my father. He hardly ever shops. What would have inspired him to send me a gift? I tore away the brown wrapper, opened the package and pulled out a poster silhouetting a large ship, sailing into a blushing sunset. The words emblazoned across the gentle reflective waves touched me to the core. “Sailing ships are safe in their harbor, but that’s not what sailing ships were built for.”

I could see my father’s face smiling in approval. For the first time, my decision to leave home and set out on my own felt right. I knew my father, even though he was not a demonstrative, affectionate man, was trying to tell me he missed me but supported my decision to go. He wanted me to be where I felt called to be, and he wanted me to do what I felt called to do.

Mark Twain once said, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the things you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

I knew I would sail farther still, because my quest was championed by my father’s love.

Cynthia Fonk with Linda Evans Shepherd

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