The Old Fisherman

Morning Story and Dilbert

Vintage Dilbert
May 31, 2002

Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.

One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face – lopsided from swelling, red and raw.

Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the eastern shore, and there’s no bus ’til morning.”

He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success – no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face…I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments…”

For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”

I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag.

When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury.

He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with a thanks to God for a blessing. He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going. At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said,

“Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.” I told him he was welcome to come again. And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m. and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.

In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery; fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had made the gifts doubly precious. When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!” Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illness’ would have been easier to bear.

I know our family always will be grateful to have known him.

Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse, As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, “If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”

My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” she explained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”

She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this small body.” All this happened long ago -and now, in God’s garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.


Author Unknown - Please comment if you know the author
 so credit can be given
  1. "Working for Christ" said:

    What a great way to end the week, Kenny! A beautiful story and a wonderful cup of coffee (or two). By the way, this story rates a five! Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂 Dave


  2. mtetar said:

    Amen God is good! Great post thank you for sharing. Be Blessed, Mtetar


  3. I enjoy your posts and find a couple each week that really touch me like this post today. Yet, I am surprised at how often these stories end with the byline “Author Unknown”. How is it possible that you have such richly detailed stories but do not know where they originated? Thanks. ~Tom


    • I find most of these stories on the internet and most are posted with “Author Unknown”. I ask people to comment if they know the author….. several of the stories have been updated or edited when the author is found. I think credit should be given to each author and credit is given if I am made aware of it… Thanks for asking!!!!

      Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T


  4. Sarah said:

    I know everyone is saying beautiful, but there’s just no better word. It is a BEAUTIFUL story!


  5. Jesus does love to use stories to imprint important lessons on our hearts. I pray God brings to mind this one when I’m put off by someone. The blessings we miss when we follow instinct instead of the Spirit!


  6. Wow! Thanks for sharing. Everything is beautiful in God’s Time!!


  7. Kenny, this story blessed me immensely for a particular reason. My equally precious, sweet dad died 2 years ago, having suffered (painfully) to the end with complications from skin cancer and treatments, rendering his face grotesquely disfigured. On one of his last office appointments before his death, with a new specialist, his face was so marred that others stared with looks of shock and dismay. My dad, fully aware of their looks, remarked to me as we were leaving that he hated that I had to be with him in public since he looked like “such a freak.” I told him that he was just as beautiful and wonderful to me as he ever had been. Those onlookers had no idea what a remarkable man this was whom they seemed insulted to be around. He was my Gentle Warrior (you can see the tribute about him I posted by going to the link below). Thanks for this post. As I said, it touched my heart for a very special reason. For sure, made me cry but I know that daddy is in heaven now, living a life as beautiful as any garden flower. Blessings.


  8. What a beautiful, touching story! Thank you for posting it 🙂


  9. Wonderful! And simply beautiful. I’m blessed to have read it, and so thankful you shared.


  10. oh this is so very beautiful…and a great reminder. thank you for this 🙂


  11. Pastor Roland Ledoux said:

    Those who know me well, know I’m a sentimental old fool who can shed tears at the drop of a hat! This post was one such post. I couldn’t hold back the tears and yet I can truly see our Heavenly Father in just such a setting as you described!! God bless you so much for sharing, my brother! God bless you so much!


    • Thank you so much for your Re-Blog of MS&D!!!! It is such an honor to be re-blogged…. Take Care and God Bless 🙂 Kenny T


  12. sf said:

    LOVED this story! Had to read it again!


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