A few weeks ago, I wrote an article to go with one of my “Route Cards” – the business cards that I give out at client’s offices that I visit that have my cartoons on the back of them – this article was titled, “As Easy As Fishing In A Bucket,” if you have not read it yet I’ll leave a link here. It was the story of a young student on one of my school bus routes and how, through her imagination and creativity, broke a “norm” about fishing. To go with that article, I drew a simple cartoon of my SERVPRO sales guy sitting on a stool fishing with an old bamboo pole in a rusty bucket and explained some of the meanings behind the choices of some props that I put in the piece. I thought it was a symbol of cutting your own path, believing in your dreams and challenging “the norm.”
This last month, I have learned ANOTHER meaning to that scenario thanks to some of my Shriner friends and a couple of groups of kids we took fishing to a trout farm in Star Prairie, WI.
Some of you may not know but I am a Mason, which is the entry point for being a Shriner, of which I am a member as well and because of that, I am a cartoonist for many local, state and even national print and online publications for several appending bodies of the Masonic Order. It is an honor I am very proud of and for which I made a cartoon series called “On The Level,” which I have been writing and drawing since 2017. It was important for me to find my own path in these organizations and with a readership easily in the ballpark of many thousands a month, I found a place for self expression and creativity like none I could ever have hoped for.
Which brings us back to the Trout Farm Summer Camp experiences. This is an event where many of the kids from the Shriner’s Clinic are bussed in and are met by Shriners, who then break into smaller “one-on-one” groups and spend time standing on the bank of a trout pond getting to know the kids. We tell the kids to “Make sure you have a fishing pole, bobber and a Shriner to get started … and please return all THREE when you’re done!”
It did not take long and the first fish was pulled in. Everybody applauded and congratulated the young fisher-person (because many of them are girls and many times they out-fish the boys!). At that moment, the gauntlet got thrown down and the challenge was excepted. From then on it’s laughing, shouts of “I got one!” and Shriners running back and forth dropping fish in buckets (because there is no catch and release), getting more bait, and untying knots, which the kids affectionately call, “catching a Shriner.”
There is no complaining, no comparing, no making excuses why things can’t be done “like normal people.” There is a young person, a pole and a Shriner cheering them on, giving advice and telling stories of what it was like for them at that age, fishing on a bank with their brothers, fathers or even grandfathers.
And while there are some, “Eeew! I’m not touching that slimy thing!”, there are just as many, “Sure I can hold it! Take my picture with it!”
I am very thankful to SERVPRO of The Saint Croix Valley and Stillwater, Oakdale and Mahtomedi, more importantly the Owners, Chris and Erin Lick, who have allowed me the time off from work that I needed, in the middle of the week, to attend things like this; they recognize the importance of these events as well as the need.
And just as quickly as fishing started, it was over and time for pizza. They sat with each other and talked of the whoppers they caught together and the WHALES that they missed.
As for me, I found my own little friend, sitting by herself with a book bag and a spiral notebook …drawing. Little Luci, maybe 9 or 10 years old, pig tails, ink smeared on her face because she scratched an itch and forgot the pen was open. She and I discovered a little world inside her tablet of playgrounds with slides, swings and basketball hoops and amusement parks with roller coasters, ferris wheels and balloons, a little girl with pigtails, standing on the edge of a pond catching the biggest fish, with an ink stain on her face. All at Luci’s request. She brought the tablet around to everyone and showed them what her new Shriner friend could do. There is more than one way to go fishing.
For a couple of minutes AGE disappeared and all were equal. In the end, everyone realized what brings young and old together are the experiences they share!
I wish you THIS kind of week! I wish you THIS kind of success. Go out and “Turn It Around” for someone, I dare you.
If you would like to recommend a young person for Shriner’s care or would like to make a donation, please do so here.
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