When I’m working on a cruise ship, I love meeting new people and making new friends. This is good because if you’ve ever been on a cruise, you know there are a million opportunities to meet new people.
About a year ago I was working on an Oceania cruise ship called the Nautica. The Nautica is a beautiful, luxurious cruise ship that holds only about 600 passengers. It’s a luxury ship with a passenger-staff ratio of practically 1:1. When I work that type of ship, if I’m not on stage you can typically find me at the buffet enjoying the incredible offerings like frog legs, fresh-rolled sushi, homemade breads and freshly made ice cream. The food is almost always the best perk of the work-week, but on this cruise it took a distant second place to meeting two guys named Joe.
The "Joe’s,”as I called them, were inseparable. They had more things in common and more history with each other than most of us have with our family members, and together they have experienced some of the most important historical moments of our time. They initially met only briefly in March 1965 when they along with thousands of others marched 54 miles over 5 days to the steps of the Capitol building in Montgomery, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King. After taking part in the Selma march, the Joe’s parted ways.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. After Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, each Joe was inspired separately to become a civil rights lawyer with a mission to continue Dr. King’s work. They had no knowledge of the other’s activities until they met up again by chance in 1985 at a convention. They rekindled their friendship and within the next year, they bought houses just a few doors down from each other in Atlanta, Georgia. They both renewed their vows with their wives just so they could be each other’s best man, and for the last 30-plus years, have never been apart for more than a few days at a time.
Now both in their 80s, the Joe’s displayed an inspiring spirit for life and passion for adventure when I met them on the Nautica. Even with their bodies older and their mobility limited, they had a mission to complete a “bucket list” they made together. Number 1 on that list: Walk through Carnival naked! Other bucket list items included skydiving,running with the bulls, visit Stonehenge, and riding elephants in Thailand. You know – things I would never be brave enough do at age 20, much less age 80.
When the Joe’s told me they also wanted to witness a miracle, I told them to look at each other and their friendship. We all teared up, shared a hug, and they allowed me to be an“honorary Joe” for the remainder of the cruise. I’ll never forget the Joe’s and their inspiring story of friendship and embracing the zest of life. I’ll also never forget the wise words of Joe’s wife Wanda: “No one wants to see an 83-year-old man walking around naked, not even in Brazil.”