These days in Portland I have met SO MANY amazing people. People filled with wisdom and history and activism. Mark Middleton is one of these (along with his cutie pie partner, Nick. Happy Birthday Nick!). A volunteer at SMYRC, a house leader of the Anawim community, a web genius, skydiver and so much more, Mark’s approach to life and ministry defies convention.
Over coffee and some unbelievable vegan desert delicacies at Pix, Mark shared a story that tickled and moved me. It’s a true story about how they used to transport fish in barrels cross-country in the old days of the US. In the story is a GREAT object lesson about how we can keep each other from growing stale in our minds and world view. I asked Mark if he would blog about it and he did:
The journey these fish were on lasted for several weeks at a time and caused a dilemma of sorts. The fish would get comfortable, lazy, stagnant and would either die or become so sedentary that their flavor would go down the tubes. By the time these barrels of fish arrived in the San Francisco port, the fish were of so poor quality that they were barely useful for fertilizer.
A enterprising woman by the name of Ethel Brandorff had an idea. In the barrel full of other, comfortable fish, she would place a single carp. The carp were irritating to the other fish, and nipped, taunted and kept the other fish ill at ease…. not killing them, but giving them a reason to swim, hustle and keep their wits about them. The carp kept the others on their toes, as it were. With the new arrangement, the whole barrel of fish was in better shape than when they left their eastern seaboard roots.
It is so easy to surround ourselves with people who totally agree with us, to visit the blogs that speak our truth and avoid people and blogs that challenge our thinking.
And how many times have we been those carp? We may not even want to be the person stirring up trouble, but by the very nature of who we are–our queerness, our transness, our differentness, our “us-ness”, we have kept our families, our churches, our schools, our society from growing stale and lifeless.
Our otherness can be a true gift to the worlds we inhabit.