CATCH OF A LIFETIME

He was eleven years old and went fishing every chance he got from the dock at his family’s cabin on an island in the middle of a New Hampshire lake.

On the day before the bass season opened, he and his father were fishing early in the evening, catching sunfish and perch with worms. Then he tied a small silver lure and practiced casting. The lure struck the water and caused colored ripples in the sunset, then silver ripples as the moon rose over the lake.

When his pole doubled over, he knew something huge was on the other end. His father watched with admiration as the boy skillfully worked the fish alongside the dock.

Finally, he very gingerly lifted the exhausted fish from the water. It was the largest one he had ever seen, but it was a bass.

The boy and his father looked at the handsome fish, gills playing back and forth in the moonlight. The father lit a match and looked at his watch. It was 10 P.M. – two hours before the season opened. He looked at the fish, then at the boy.

“You’ll have to put it back, son,” he said.

“Dad!” cried the boy.

“There will be other fish,” said his father.

“Not as big as this one,” cried the boy.

He looked around the lake. No other fishermen or boats were anywhere around in the moonlight. He looked again at his father.

Even though no one had seen them, nor could anyone ever know what time he caught the fish, the boy could tell by the clarity of his father’s voice that the decision was not negotiable. He slowly worked the hook out of the lip of the huge bass and lowered it into the black water.

The creature swished its powerful body and disappeared. The boy suspected that he would never again see such a great fish.

That was 34 years ago. Today, the boy is a successful architect in New York City. His father’s cabin is still there on the island in the middle of the lake. He takes his own son and daughters fishing from the same dock.

And he was right. He has never again caught such a magnificent fish as the one he landed that night long ago. But he does see that same fish – again and again – every time he comes up against a question of ethics.

For, as his father taught him, ethics are simple matters of right and wrong. It is only the practice of ethics that is difficult. Do we do right when no one is looking? Do we refuse to cut corners to get the design in on time? Or refuse to trade stocks based on information that we know we aren’t supposed to have?

We would if we were taught to put the fish back when we were young. For we would have learned the truth.

The decision to do right lives fresh and fragrant in our memory. It is a story we will proudly tell our friends and grandchildren. Not about how we had a chance to beat the system and took it, but about how we did the right thing and were forever strengthened.

Source | The Catch of a Lifetime by James P. Lenfestey
in  Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, et al.,
A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul: More Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit.
(Health Communications Inc., 1997) pages 141-142

CONSIDER THIS

  • The most permanent lessons in morals are those which come, not of book teaching, but of experience.
 |  Mark Twain: A Tramp Abroad
  • Do we do right when no one is looking?
  • Do we refuse to cut corners to get the design in on time?
  • Do we refuse to trade stocks based on information that we know we aren’t supposed to have?
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THE FISHERMAN WHO KNEW HOW TO LIVE

A smartly-dressed enterprising tourist is taking photographs when he notices a shabbily dressed local fisherman taking a nap in his fishing boat. The tourist is disappointed with the fisherman’s apparently lazy attitude towards his work, so he approaches the fisherman and asks him why he is lying around instead of catching fish. The fisherman explains that he went fishing in the morning, and the small catch would be sufficient for the next two days.

The tourist tells him that if he goes out to catch fish multiple times a day, he would be able to buy a motor in less than a year, a second boat in less than two years, and so on. The tourist further explains that one day, the fisherman could even build a small cold storage plant, later a pickling factory, fly around in a helicopter, build a fish restaurant, and export lobster directly to Paris without a middleman.

The nonchalant fisherman asks, “Then what?”

The tourist enthusiastically continues, “Then, without a care in the world, you could sit here in the harbor, doze in the sun, and look at the glorious sea.”

“But I’m already doing that”, says the fisherman.

The enlightened tourist walks away pensively, with no trace of pity for the fisherman, only a little envy.

Source: Anecdote concerning the Lowering of Productivity
in Heinrich Boll (author), Leila Vennewitz (translator)
The Collected Stories of Heinrich Bollpages 794-796

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TWO OTHER VERSIONS OF THE SAME STORY

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.

An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, “But what do you do with all your time?”

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs…I have a full life.”

The American interrupted, “I have a degree in business management and I can help you!”

You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat. With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.”

“You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years,” replied the American. “And after that?”

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stock and make millions!”

“Millions? Really? And after that?”

“After that  – and this is the best part – you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends!”

______________________________

The rich industrialist from the North was horrified to find the southern fisherman lying lazily beside his boat, smoking a pipe.

Why aren’t you out fishing? said the industrialist.

Because I have caught enough fish for the day, said the fisherman.

Why don’t you catch some more?

What would I do with it?

You could earn more money was the reply.

With that you could have a motor fixed to your boat and go into deeper waters and catch more fish.

Then you would make enough to buy nylon nets. These would bring you more fish and more money. Soon you would have enough money to own two boats…maybe even a fleet of boats.  Then you would be a rich man like me.

What would I do then?

Then you could really enjoy life.

What do you think I am doing right now?

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Is there enough balance in your life between doing and non-doing, work and rest?
  • Know where you’re going in life … you may already be there.

CAUGHT SPEEDING ON THE HIGHWAY

A man was speeding down the highway, feeling secure in a gaggle of cars all traveling at the same speed. However, as they passed a speed trap, he got nailed with an infrared speed detector and was pulled over.

The police officer handed him the citation, received his signature and was about to walk away when the man asked, “Officer, I know I was speeding, but I don’t think it’s fair – there were plenty of other cars around me who were going just as fast, so why did I get the ticket?”

“Ever go fishing?” the policeman suddenly asked the man.

“Well, yeah, of course I go fishing from time to time,” the startled man replied.

The officer grinned and added, “Do you ever catch all the fish?”

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • The fact that often we are not caught does not mean that everything is OK and right and just. A wrong is always wrong whether one is caught or not.
  • What do you think?  Do you believe that because only you are caught and not the others who were doing exactly the same thing as you, an injustice is being committed?