Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Old Fisherman

Read this WONDERFUL story somewhere, then a friend of mine sent it to me yesterday, so I decided to look for it in the internet and here it is. (click on the title to go to the site where I found it)

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to out-patients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body.

But the appalling thing was his face ... lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, "Good evening. I've come to see if you've a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there's no bus 'til morning."

He told me he'd been hunting for a room since noon but with no success. No one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face ... I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments..."

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me. "I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning." I told him we would find him a bed. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. "No thank you. I have plenty." And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him for a few minutes. It didn't take long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn't tell it by way of complaint. In fact, every other sentence was preface with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.

At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch.

He refused breakfast. But just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, "Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won't put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair." He paused a moment and then added, "Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don't seem to mind." I told him he was welcome to come again.

On his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they'd be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

During the years he came to stay overnight with us, there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden.

Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery ... fish and oysters packed in a box with fresh young spinach or kale ... every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious.

When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. "Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!"

Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illness' would have been easier to bear. I know our family will always be grateful to have known him. From him, we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.

Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all ... a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, "If this were my plant, I'd put it in the loveliest container I had!"

My friend changed my mind. "I ran short of pots," she explained," and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn't mind starting out in this old pail. It's just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden."

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining such a scene in heaven. "Here's an especially beautiful one," God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. "He won't mind starting in this small body."

All this happened long ago ... and now, in God's garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.

Mary Bartels Bray
reprinted from Guideposts, June 1965


  1. WOW! That was an amazing story! It was very, very touching Amel!

    It is interesting isn't it, people often judge a person by their looks yet it's not the looks that are the most important feature in a person.

    It's really the size of their heart. Yet we are humans. We are always loopsided in our judgements even though we should know better.

    I guess only time will allow us to be more mature in our thought patterns. If we know better, then we should work hard to ensure we follow what we know.

    Hope you're doing well Amel!


  2. Glad to have you back, Shan! You are missed! ;-D

    Yeah, that's why I decided to post the story. I've read it twice but it never ceased to touch me he he he...

    Indeed, may we become more mature and graceful as we age. ;-D

    I've been doing GREAT, Shan, THANKS!!! ;-D Hope life's treated you well, too!

  3. Very touching story, Amel.In spite of all his hardships:
    '...He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease.. '
    in my opinion,service to others and the spirit of sacrifice are qualities that make a person truly great..
    Thanks for sharing such a noble post.

  4. I'm so glad you shared that Amel; what a wonderful story to start a new week with. I'll remember that for a long time to come.

  5. Surjit: You're SO right about service and spirit of sacrifice. THX for sharing your thoughts. ;-D

    Paper Fan Club: Yeah, this is one of those stories that leave quite a mark on us, eh? Glad you enjoyed it. ;-D

  6. Oh amel....what a terrific made me happy but also touched me so deeply that I was moved to tears!!! The world can be so crule sometimes....but thank God that thier really are Angels all around...we just have to open our hearts and love...God Bless You and Big Big HUGGGGGSSSSSSSSS to you too my dear friend!!~jackie

  7. What a beautiful story... I agree with what everyone has commented thus far, and can't think of anything to add at the moment except to say it was wonderful...

    Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Shinade: YESSSS!!! Angels are everywhere indeed! ;-D

    Kate: Glad you thought the same way. I'll surely keep an eye for more stories like this. ;-D

  9. This was such a beautiful story! Saddly most of the people look at the appearance of a person, instead of his personality and heart. Perhaps those who judged by looks will change his/her mind after reading this story.

  10. Glad you enjoyed it, Nika!!! Amen to your wish. ;-D