When I was growing up, cartoons were a important part of our TV time. In the days before cable and satellite TV, we got a total of one channel and knew exactly when each cartoon show was on. There were some themes that cut across all the shows, no matter what company produced them. One theme, for example, was that small and smart always wins over big and mean, which probably reflects the desires of the primary viewing audience.
Another theme is expressed by the words used in the title of this post–“Gone Fishin'”. These words often appeared on the door or in the window of someone important to the main characters of the cartoon. The character would be in trouble, being chased or sick or in need of money or food or something equally vital. There would often be a cartoon balloon revealing that the desired thing could be found at such and such a place.
After much trial and tribulation, the character would arrive at the place, only to find it empty with the “Gone Fishin'” sign on display. As a kid, I remember thinking how unfair that was–the protagonist needed help and the person who could supply the help had callously and selfishly taken off, not caring about the needs of the desperate cartoon character.
I know a lot of people in helping professions like ministry who seem to have felt the same sense of injustice because they never seem to take time off. They don’t want to be the person whose help is desperately needed and who has gone fishing at just the point when the help is needed. And while it may seem like such people are altruistic and genuinely caring in a day and age when such qualities are in short supply, I have to confess that I have a very different view.
I have been part of a helping profession for a long time and in that time, I have seen a lot of people come and go. I have at times been the one always on duty, always there, never going fishing. But somewhere along the line, my cartoon inspired sense of injustice was shaken when I realized that while there were lots and lots of helpers who burned the candle at both ends, there were very few old helpers who burned the candle at both ends. There were burned out helpers who didn’t provide help to anyone anymore. There were sick or dead helpers who weren’t providing help to anyone any more. There were formerly high-paced helpers who were permanently out of the helping profession because of ethical issues. But there were no old or long time helpers who burned the candle at both ends.
There were, however, helpers who had been in the business for a long time and who were still helping a lot of people in a lot of ways–and they were the ones who know when and how to go fishing. Well, actually, not all of them went on real fishing trips. But they all knew how to hang out the sign and take some time for themselves, getting the rest and recreation they needed to unstress and relax and enable them to be effective long term care providers.
Having flirted with burn-out at various times in my ministry, I have no real desire crash and burn. And so, I learned relatively early that while the cartoons were fun for me as a kid, the cartoon morality and lifestyle needed some modifications. I learned to hang out the “Gone Fishin'” sign, except I would spell it properly.
And so to the point of this post. I will be “Gone Fishin'” for a bit. We are taking some vacation time and although I will have my tablet and internet access most of the time, I will be taking a break from everything, including writing this blog. I will be playing with grandchildren, talking with our sons and their partners, eating too much at the wrong times, not exercising enough, sleeping in (grandchildren permitting), seeing some new things, enjoying time with my wife and basically making my days as different as possible from what I normally do. I may even watch cartoons with the older grandchildren–and if I see the “Gone Fishin'” sign in a cartoon, I will congratulate the one who posted the sign–remember, in the cartoons, the protagonist always managed to win even when the sign was posted.
May the peace of God be with you.