The Old Fisherman
Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of
John 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
awful looking man. "Why, he's hardly taller than my eight-year-old," I
thought, as I looked at his shriveled body. His face was lopsided from
swelling, as well as red and raw. Yet his voice was nice 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 till morning."
He said he'd been hunting for a room since noon, without any success.
No one seemed to have a room. "I guess it's my face... I know it looks
terrible, but my doctor tells me with a few more treatments ..." For
a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me. "I could sleep
in the rocking chair on the porch, he said. My bus leaves early in the
morning." I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the
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 a few minutes. It didn't take long to
see 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
kids, 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 prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that
he had no pain from his disease, which was apparently a form of skin
cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going.
At bedtime, I put a camp cot in the children's room for him. When I
up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little
was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left
his bus, haltingly, as if asking a big favor, he said, "Could I please
come stay here 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 said he was welcome to come again.
On his next trip the fisherman came a little after seven that 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 that for us.
In 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
Other times we received packages in the mail, by special delivery;
and oysters packed in a box of 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 made, the gifts were doubly precious.
When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a
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
roomers by putting up such people!" Maybe we did lose roomers once or
twice. Oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses
would have been easier to bear. Our family always will 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;for OUR
Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed
me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful flower 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 flower would be, I thought it wouldn't mind
starting out in this old pail. It's just for a little while, till I
put it out in the garden."
She may have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was
just 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."
This all happened a long time ago -- and now, in God's garden, how "tall"
lovely soul must stand. Lets ALL see the contents, not the container.
Addendum -- 1 Samuel 16:7 (NLT) "People judge by outward appearance, but
the Lord looks at a person's thoughts and intentions."
[ Author Unknown -- from Dawna and Daisee ]
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