Big fish, small pond

Are you familiar with the term “big fish, small pond?” It typically means that someone’s something of a big deal in their circle: the school, the church, the town. I’ve mostly heard it said about people who are the town big shots, usually in small towns. Towns like West Grove, Pa., where I grew up.

I’m sure I’ve known some big fish in small ponds. None, however, as intimately as I’ve known the Lamborn family.

From my earliest memories until the day I went off to college there was someone around who knew my parents, liked them, maybe owed them a favor. Or at least owed our family some gratitude for something we’d done. People tried a few times to get my dad to run for mayor, even.

I felt pretty self-important, no matter how often someone came along and played noodler to get me out of the water and beat my head against a rock. Then I went off to college.

I felt lost and alone. I made friends and quickly became someone people said hi to and spoke with. It was nice to start feeling like I mattered again. Three semesters in and I was sure things would only get better. Then I joined the Marine Corps.

I was a small fish again. Much bigger pond this time, too. I grew in that pond and got bigger. In getting bigger I realized that the reason my father seemed like such a big fish, the reason I did at college, was not because I was a big fish, but because I was just like the other fish and didn’t act like I was better than them. I related with them. I was part of the school, not some big lunker that everyone watched out for.

Since leaving the Marine Corps I’ve been in the biggest ponds I’ve ever been in. There are lots of big fish out there: big lunkers, sharks, dolfin, you name it. They’re the self-important and dangerous kind. My goal is to be a big fish again, but the kind that relates with others, that serves and mentors and makes life better. In short, I want to the hands and feet of the Church. I’ve a long way to go, but I’ve also come a long way.

What kind of fish do you want to be? What impact do you want to have on the world? Tell me about it in the comments. And have a great weekend.


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