What to do with a prize salmon? The second congregation I served was in Wapato, Washington – a town of 3,000 with an 85% poverty rate. George Palmer was retired and drove an older white pick-up truck. An experienced tradesman, he liked to go around town and do household repairs for people who could not afford to have things fixed. He took delight in his small white poodle, Taffy, and had built a special car seat for Taffy so that she could sit next to him and see where they were going. George and Taffy would often stop by my office to visit.
He told me once about being a child at World Series time. Radio broadcasts had not reached rural Washington yet, so everyone who wanted to follow the game would gather in downtown Yakima in front of the offices of the local newspaper, the Yakima Herald. There was a scoreboard with a baseball field painted on it, and as the office would get updates, an attendant would move figures around the field to show and post the scores. He said it was exciting every time an update came, and the crowd would stand in the street to follow the games for hours.
George was also an accomplished fisherman, particularly for salmon. One time we were talking about fishing and I asked him what the biggest fish was he ever caught. He told he had been fishing with friends on the Columbia River, and he hooked what was clearly a huge salmon. It took him some time to get it close enough that he could net it. He said when it was within arms reach, he realized it was the most impressive fish he had ever seen.
I said, “So what did you do with it?
“Steve,” he said with a smile, “It was so beautiful I just had to let it go.”
So much of our culture is about gaining control over things and making them our possession. In that moment, I realized that perhaps the best thing we can do is to give thanks for a shining moment, and then let it go.