Mick Shepherd is a CAFOD Volunteer from St Joseph in Greenwich. He lives near Norwood Lake. He is sharing with us his experience of how fishing is about hope and how hope is at the core of his volunteering. Mick has a more meaningful understanding of the joy of fishing and the hope of the catch. Here is what he says –
‘Norwood Lake is quite near my house, a large lake teeming with fish and wildlife. I walk there most days but have never understood fishing – I see the same men sitting there every day, lines in the water, waiting for a catch. They always throw the fish back so I think, ‘What’s the point? Why spend every afternoon just sitting, waiting? Then yesterday I got it! – it’s about hope, they are sitting there and they are hoping! In fact, they are full of hope – renewed with each day’s fishing!
Without hope, we ware all finished: in the morning we wake up hoping it will be fine; we go shopping, hoping to find the things we need. We hope that the children have a good day at school (the first thing we ask when they get home): later on, we hope they will pass their exams; we arrange a holiday, hoping it will be sunny: we turn on the TV, hoping to see our favourite programme. When hospitalised and needing an operation, we hope it will be successful(we dread hearing ‘It’s hopeless, there’s no hope of recovery’). In prison, the only thing keeping prisoners alive is the hope that they will gain early release for good behaviour – without hope, imprisonment is a death sentence.
Once, I brought a pupil (Kriya, 10) to St. Joseph’s; Kriya was a Hindu, keen to learn about Christianity. He joined the children at Thursday mass while I led them in song. Afterwards I took him round the church, showing him the stations of the Cross and the statues. Afterwards he said ‘Mick, I think your religion is very sad’ (indicating Jesus on the Cross) ‘Hinduism is very joyful’.
I explained that the Cross was not the end of the story but its beginning, a symbol of hope, love and forgiveness , the empty Cross and empty tomb the ‘sure hope’ that Christians believed in.
The work of CAFOD is based on giving people hope in some of the poorest and most deprived areas of the world: the old adage is true, ‘Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day: teach a man how to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime’. And this is precisely the approach adopted by CAFOD, one of giving people the wherewithal and the means to enable them to provide for themselves, their families and their communities. This enabling help gives people new hope, and this is why I continue to support CAFOD and its wonderful work.
The next time I walk round Norwood Lake, I shall have more understanding, not just of fishing but of the ‘sure hope’ we Christians all share’.
For hope – Proverbs 13:12 says ‘… is a desire fulfilled – is a tree of life’. We at CAFOD help our brothers and sisters to achieve their desires, which is like a tree ‘planted by the rivers of waters’. Refreshing waters that makes our desires bloom in the hope of the now and the hope of a better future – what a catch is hope!