In May 1975 I joined the m.t. Stolt Sheaf in the port of Bandar Shapour in pre-revolution Iran. It took me three days to get to the ship, including twenty-four hours stranded in Kuwait. The Stolt Sheaf was a 25,000 ton highly specialised chemical tanker. We had British officers and Chinese ratings from Hong Kong. I was a navigating cadet, on my fourth trip to sea. The other navigating cadet, who had joined the ship with me, was on his second ship.
As cadets we generally worked with the crew, studied in our own time, and lived and ate with the officers. In addition to the main dining saloon most ships of my day were also equipped with a duty mess where one could eat lunch in particular without having to clean up and don uniform. Cadets were not usually allowed to use the duty mess, but we always tried our luck – especially when working in particularly hot and humid parts of the world. We got away with it for a few days on the Stolt Sheaf, but then the Chinese second steward kicked up a fuss and we were told to get showered and eat lunch in the officers’ saloon.
Given the unpleasantness of the second steward the other cadet and I quickly plotted our revenge. Every time we ate in the saloon we took our end of meal coffee from the table to drink in the bar or in our cabins. We returned the cups and saucers to the pantry, but held onto the teaspoons. It wasn’t long before almost all of the teaspoons on the Stolt Sheaf, except for a couple in the engine room and wheelhouse, were hidden away in the cadets’ cabins.
Finally the day arrived when the catering staff found themselves down to their last teaspoon. The second steward guarded this spoon, keeping it in his shirt pocket. When the captain asked for a teaspoon to stir his hot drink the second steward erupted. For the cadets it was a joy to watch the melt down at the opposite end of the officers’ dining table as the second steward tried to explain in broken English to the captain that there were no f*****g spoons on the f*****g ship.
I guess we realised that we might have gone too far, and one by one we began to feed our supply of teaspoons back into general circulation. We were probably the prime suspects but the stewards do not have access to the cadets’ cabins because cadets are required to clean their own cabins, unlike the officers. This meant that the second steward had no way of investigating any suspicions he may have had. Revenge was sweet. We never got to eat in the duty mess but we sure as heck made the second steward pay for excluding us.
Revenge may often seem as sweet as it did for two navigating cadets back in 1975, but it is never right. Jesus taught us to forgive those who hurt us, not to hurt them back. How many of us struggle with that?
“But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
“If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
“Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:27-36 NLT)