Life lessons, yes, the kind of experiences that make you reevaluate your priorities and what’s really important in the end, never seem to come when you’re expecting them.
For me it began one day with a striper fishing trip to San Luis with Byron Stickler, a local brown trout fanatic and fishing friend.
We pulled into the Petro diner in Santa Nella at 0-dark-30, just after the restaurant opened. Our idea was to catch a quick bite, and then take off to the nearby big lake for some stripers. Taking a seat, one of the regular waitresses brought us coffee as we made sure my rig was secure in the nearby parking lot. A lone trucker ambled in and took the booth right behind us.
I had been drinking my coffee for a good 10 minutes as we discussed the coming foray when I heard a small voice behind me ask, “Is that your boat out there?”
“Yes it is!” I answered.
“You going fishing near here?” he asked further. Obviously, he didn’t know that we were sitting about three-quarters of a mile from a lake with a formidable striper fishery. I figured he had to be one of the long-haul truckers I often saw here who stopped overnight before undertaking their next leg. It seemed like a tough life.
Turning around, I guessed the guy was in his 40s, and though appearing exhausted the mention of fishing had gotten him excited. I could see there was a fire shining in his eyes now, as if life had flowed back into his posture and countenance as we talked. He had come in almost dragging, but this was a new guy.
He had come all the way from South Carolina, driving for days. He had been tired, but not now. Once he knew we fished, he began sharing his passion for trout fishing, especially browns back in his home state. The guy knew what he was talking about, and when he found out that Byron was an expert brown angler, the discussion grew more rapid.
This guy was taking it in and giving it back to us like a fire hose! He shared his biggest catches and wanted to know about ours. It was the sharing of two fishing worlds, a whole country away from each other but similar in every other way. He got more animated by the minute. He was sharing his very lifeblood with us.
It struck me that here he was, weeks away and hundreds of miles from everyone he cares about, with no one to talk to but suddenly was able to share his passion for fishing. Pretty lonely, he was living for his next fishing trip. It seemed to be the dream that kept him going. Now he finally had found some guys who understood him – and he needed to express it. We talked for 20 minutes, and I gave him my fishing card. Byron told me later that he was sure by the way the guy carefully took it that he probably mounted it on his truck’s dash. It was his connection to life.
Leaving, I realized that the guy was on fire and his demeanor had completely changed. Why? I believe that for him to be able to vicariously live through our fishing experiences, as well as being affirmed and respected as an angler, made him feel as though he had spent a day on the water. Somehow he felt he was out there with us in spirit. A blood/dream transfusion of sorts.
Yes, the fishing was very tough, but we had a great time. I think most of us feel like we live in an increasingly crazy, “I” oriented world that can drain your life. However, I find that when I get the chance to share a mutual passion and dream, such as fishing, that uplifts others and transcends the negative chaos around us, I am being a “life giver” in a world of “takers” and miracles happen.
Later, Byron texted me: “You know, the most important thing we did today was talk to that guy in the diner!” Yes, it truly was. A great life lesson to reach out and be a blessing. An accidental meeting? I don’t think so.