Throwing A Fish Back In

Mike McGough
December 2019

Like most folks who fish, he has his favorite spots. It's kind of a lazy place, if places can be lazy, and not many folks know about it. He was there not long ago, and he learned a great lesson that another fisherman had been taught as a child. It was one of those bigger lessons of life. It was a lesson he had been taught by his Mom.

It was getting late in the day, and he had been fishing for a while. He must have been snoozing a bit as well, because he never heard the pickup truck pull in. He was somewhat startled when the guy driving the truck closed the door. It woke him up from his little nap along the stream. He assumed the guy who emerged from the pickup was stopping after work to do a little fishing, but he soon learned he was not. This guy had stopped to fulfill a much higher purpose. He did not have a fishing rod. Instead, he was carrying a bucket. The guy who had been napping could not figure what he was up to. Maybe his radiator had a leak, and he needed some water. Or maybe he knew some wayto catch fish with a bucket. Since the guy who had been fishing was still officially skunked for the day, he got curious about what the guy with the bucket was up to.

As he approached the stream, he paused, looked into the bucket then emptied the contents into the water. He had dumped some fish into the stream. The now awake fisherman wondered if people were actually allowed to dump fish into someone else's stream. After dumping the fish, he stood on the bank for a while, then turned and headed back toward his truck. He saw the fisherman sitting further up along the stream. He hollered, "Having any luck?" Picking up his rod and reeling it in just a bit, he said, “I hope those fish you dumped in are hungry. If not chances are good, I’m going home empty handed.”

He sat the bucket down and started walking toward the fisherman. As he walked he said to the fisherman, “Whether you catch anything or not, this is a great place to fish and get a little rest.” With that comment, the snoozing fisherman knew that he had indeed been caught napping.

They exchanged some small talk. Even though the fisherman didn't ask, the man who had dumped the fish began to offer an explanation. He said he and his children had fished that spot for years. He said every time he drives by he remembers how much fun this particular stretch of stream had provided. He said he still fishes and now he fishes with his grandchildren at a variety of spots they’ve found. He still hadn’t explained why he had thrown the fish into the stream.

Without being asked, he then explained why he had dumped the fish into the stream. "I was doing a little fishing myself earlier today, and I caught three nice ones. I only wanted to keep one for dinner, since my wife won’t eat them. I was fishing nearby and thought about this section of the stream. I heard it wasn’t being stocked anymore. It was a bit out of my way, but I thought I’d take the time to bring them hereand do a little stocking on my own. My kids and I had pulled a lot of fish from this stream over the years, so it only seemed fair that I should now throw a few back in. That’s kind of my philosophy of life as well. You know, one of those little lessons about life that your Mom teaches you when you’re a kid.”

They continued to chat for a bit. Just before he headed back to his truck to head for home, he said, "If you take something, I think you should be willing to give something as well. Just imagine the shape this world would be in if we were all takers." He had given the fisherman a good deal to think about. Even though he had been skunked that day, what he had gained along the stream that day was immense.

There are many people who will teach the lessons of life. None will be truer, more enduring, and powered with more love than the lessons you Mom teaches you. Life offers a lot, but one thing it generally doesn't offer is an unlimited free ride. That stream, not unlike so many other things in life, would soon be empty, if everyone who came to its banks was a taker. Any chance you get, be a giver.

Thanks Mom!