When my husband was in kindergarten, his class took a field trip to The Cross-Eyed Cricket, a catfish farm 20 or so minutes from his school. From what he can remember, the outing mostly consisted of the kids dangling a bamboo pole over a pond stocked with fish which would automatically jump out of the water to bite the chunk of chicken liver on the fishhook. It only took a few seconds to catch one. Much to the delight of all the parents, the dead fish were put in plastic bags and sent home with the kids so that they could either be a) cooked for dinner or b) thrown away in an outside trashcan. (By the way, had I been a mom of one of these students, I would’ve chosen B. The 1970’s were a strange time.)
I don’t know who to feel most sorry for in this story: the 5-year old who thinks this what fishing is or the catfish who never knows the joy of swimming in a real, not-so-crowded pond or the teachers who had to pass out bags of dead fish at the end of a long day of teaching. However you look at it, something just seems off about this field trip.
My profound sympathy for those oblivious catfish may be due to my own lack of understanding. At times, am I actually living in the human equivalent of the ponds at The Cross-Eyed Cricket? Am I swimming around thinking that everyone must have the same opportunities, dreams, and challenges that I do? Sometimes we call it First World Problems: The WiFi stops working, and we want to call it a catastrophe. My Amazon delivery is late, and I am outraged.
It’s not just a matter of being grateful, although that’s always a good place to start. I mean, Jesus told a story about a man who considered himself godly when he prayed prayers of thankfulness that he wasn’t like other men, and Christ said he wasn’t in good standing with God. So being thankful isn’t the end-all solution. It’s also about being aware, then letting that awareness make me uncomfortable. And hopefully, I’ll get uncomfortable enough to act. Because, after all, comfort is over-rated. Those catfish were probably pretty fat and happy right up until the moment after they bit into that chunk of chicken liver. If they had been created with human intellect, they may have questioned the brevity of their short lives. With their last breaths, as they flopped aimlessly, waiting for death, the thought may have crossed their teeny tiny brains: Is this it?
In 2023, expand your understanding about those around you. Get uncomfortable. Ask questions. And when the awareness of pain hurts you, invite Jesus into the conversation. I can’t say for sure what He’ll say, but it may be similar to what He told His friends when He bent down to wash their feet. “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”