I first heard this story when I was in Nicaragua earlier this year on a volunteer mission. I have often thought about it since, and was reminded of it again when I ran into Sasha and Liz a few days ago–two fellow volunteers who were on that trip with me.
The story reminds me of how often in my life I have been caught up in trying to get or achieve something, but how unfulfilling it usually feels when it finally arrives. By then I am onto the next thing, never really taking the time to appreciate what I have. Thinking somehow that if I get that thing, I will have arrived and I will be happy. But it never turns out that way because happiness is not a destination, and it is certainly not the accumulation of things that leads to peace. The ego has a funny way of distorting the way we view things, and can be insatiable in its quest to justify itself.
My life is changing, and this story describes perfectly where I think it may be headed. I think perhaps I have all I need right now. The grass is already green on my side. And the fog is slowly lifting.
A North American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Nicaraguan village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.
Inside the small boat was a lot of large mackeral, tuna, and shrimps. The tourist complimented the Nicaraguan on the quality of his fish and seafood and asked how long it took to catch it all.
The Nicaraguan replied, “Only a little while.”
The tourist then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”
The Nicaraguan said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”
The tourist then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Nicaraguan fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”
The tourist scoffed, “I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. And you should buy a bigger boat. And then buy other people’s boats and own a whole fleet of boats. Then, you can sell directly to restaurants and hotels and fish factories. You would control the whole process. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Managua, then to Los Angeles or Toronto to run your company.”
The Nicaraguan fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”
The tourist replied, “15 to 20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the Nicaraguan.
The tourist laughed and said, “When the time is right you would sell your company and make millions of dollars.”
“Millions?…Then what?” the fisherman asked.
“That’s the best part,” the North American said, “Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos. You would have an easy life!”