In the summer of 1982 I volunteered to assist the City of Laramie with its annual Huck Finn fishing derby. A small pond was stocked with rainbow trout and children up to the age of 12 were invited to participate.
I was assigned the job of counting and measuring the fish. There was a prize for the first fish caught, the last fish caught, the biggest fish and the smallest fish. There was also a prize for the child who caught the most fish.
A local radio station supplied the prizes and provided live coverage of the event. When the contest began it was extremely hot by Laramie standards with the temperature in the low 90’s.
I can attest to the fact that the precious children caught many fish that day. My card table was set up close to the pond and the children often flipped the freshly caught and flopping fish into my lap. It did not take long for my shirt and pants to become saturated with slime, scales and stench. I was delighted to interact with so many happy giggling little children so it really did not matter how I looked or smelled.
There was one little boy, wearing blue, who often approached me with a request to untangle his fishing line. His rod, reel and line were quite old and defective. On several occasions I untangled his line and each time he thanked me and returned to his fishing adventure.
The tournament lasted about 4 hours. When the tournament concluded I was very tired, hot, thirsty and stinky. That being said, I still enjoyed watching the radio station’s DJ award the prizes. It was then that I noticed that the vast majority of the children had family members in attendance. I remember one father, in particular, whose face beamed with pride as his son was awarded the prize for catching the most fish.
After the prizes were awarded, I cleaned up the area around the pond. It appeared as if everyone but my wife and I had gone home. As I was walking back to my car I again heard the voice of the little boy in blue. He was standing behind me and asked if I would untangle his line one more time.
My initial thought was to politely decline so that I could hurry home and wash off the day’s activities. His line acquired the mother of all tangles and it would be at least a 15 minute job to rectify the problem. I decided to stay and help him.
I flopped down on my knees and began working on the line. I had looked at this child many times throughout the day, but this was the first time that I actually saw him. His tattered shirt was about 3 sizes too big and his ragged pants were about 2 sizes too small. The soles of his oversized tennis shoes were partially detached from the tops and it appeared that this child of God had not had a bath in many days. His hair was long, unkempt and matted.
When he smiled at me his teeth appeared to have more cavities than enamel. It also dawned on me that this little boy had not caught so much as one fish that day. If only I had seen him sooner I could have helped him try to catch at least one fish that day. I also could have persuaded the radio station to award him some sort of prize. He thanked me again when, for the last time, I untangled his fishing line.
Please stop just looking at others. Instead, dig deep within yourself and start to see those around you. Then, humbly reach out and try to make this world a better place for God’s cherished little ones.