A Fishy Platform
Mr. Donald Man O’ War was the governor of the Western Reef which was an elected position. Although he had position, wealth, power; was well-traveled and had many fish vying for his romantic attention, his language was one of fear and dissatisfaction. Donald spoke only of discontent and trouble from the far corners of the earth as that is what he saw everywhere he looked although the oceans had been clean and pure for some time now since the extinction of humans.
Donald’s perspective lent itself well to achieving status as he was seemingly able to predict trouble and implement processes to minimize impending disaster. Indeed it was his act of warning his constituents to “save food because a shortage was imminent” that led to his winning the election by a landslide for when the famine hit, coincidentally at the height of election, they had lots of algae reserves. Few fish at the time actually realized that it was Donald’s directive to hoard food which created the shortage.
Each of the localities pooled their resources on a weekly basis as was the tradition for eons before Donald’s manufactured food crisis. Each week representatives from each reef met and exchanged their resources so that all reef creatures everywhere could have rich and well-balanced diets. The Western Reef was full of vitamin-rich green algae. The Eastern Reef had tons of protein-rich plankton. The Northern Reef had the best sea grass for miles and the Southern Reef had an abundance of sea lilies which everyone knows are the sweetest taste in the entire ocean.
A Toxic Tide
After Donald’s prediction, the representative from the Western Reef started bringing less and less algae to the weekly exchange as her constituents feared they wouldn’t have enough to survive the upcoming famine. This left the residents of the other reefs short on green algae although for a few weeks they continued to share their bounties as generously as they always had.
By the third week, Timothy the Tiger Shark from the Eastern Reef questioned the amount of the Western Reef’s contribution. Timothy’s tone was not one of accusation for these reef creatures had never experienced greed or malice so they did not interpret the small contribution as such and in fact, Timothy posed the question in the following manner: “Mrs. Barracuda, I have noticed the amount of green algae being contributed by the Western Reef has been getting smaller and smaller each week. Is everything ok in the West? If things are difficult, please let us know so that we may all increase our contributions so that we can help our fellow fish brothers and fishters in the West through this time.”
Mrs. Barracuda thanked Timothy and said “we in the Western Reef are fine and currently have as much as we’ve always had although we have heard that a famine is imminent and therefore we are preserving our resources so that we can be prepared for that very dark time.”
Timothy from the East, Nelson the Narwhal from the North and Samantha the Salmon from the south were stunned. They had never even fathomed a shortage! In all of their lives, their parents’ lives and their grandparents’ lives – none of them had ever experienced such a thing. They lived in a time and place of abundance always. There was never a worry or fear of not having enough for they had always had plenty.
The reef reps thanked Mrs. Barracuda for the information and took the news back to their respective reefs. The news spread like an oil spill and the rising panic swelled like a tsunami. By the following week, the contributions of each of the reefs had diminished considerably. The contributions further diminished the week after that and again the following week. By the time they reached the one month mark after Mrs. Barracuda’s warning of “imminent famine,” all of the reef reps showed up to the weekly exchange empty-finned with only apologies on offer. By week number 6, not even apologies were offered; instead, the reps exchanged stories of illness and tragedy.
The apparent food shortage was having an impact on both the minds and bodies of sea creatures everywhere. Some were getting weak and feeble and susceptible to viruses because their diets were off-balance. Those who were not yet sick physically were beginning to suffer from anxiety and depression caused by the fear of worrying about when they would get sick as by now illness was a forgone conclusion in most of their minds. Those who were well were suffering from exhaustion brought on by tending to the needs of those who were either physically or emotionally ill.
The next week at the food exchange, the reef reps showed up looking pale, weary and weak. In addition to their own personal maladies, they brought additional stories of blight from their reefs. The waters were getting cloudy and murky; sea life and plants were shrinking and some were just flat out disappearing.
After listening patiently to the tragic stories, Nelson who was a very thoughtful Narwhal and one of few words spoke: “My fellow reef reps and brothers and fishters: We find ourselves in a predicament but we are in a unique position to affect change. If we do nothing we will watch our friends and families slowly perish – as will we. Doing nothing is an option for sure however, we have another option. Perhaps instead of each hoarding our own resources, we could again begin to share. There is still a chance we will perish however at least we will die knowing that we did all that we could to save ourselves and our loved ones.
I pledge to bring a bit of sea grass for each of your reefs the next time we meet. I propose we meet again two days from now because this is a matter of the utmost urgency. It will not be easy to persuade my reef to release the sea grass however I am confident I will succeed because I believe with my heart and tusk that this is the right thing to do.” You could see each of the reps in their weakened states trying to process what Nelson had proposed. Dare they hope?
Nelson the Narwhal saw a slight glimmer of light in Samantha the Salmon’s eyes and continued speaking: “We of the sea have seen many disasters occur due to the nature of the universe and due to the human population however we have always banded together. We have always accepted that which was so as so with grace and dignity and more importantly, we never stopped loving each other and sharing with each other. We overcame all of those catastrophes and not only did we survive but we continued to thrive and adapt.
“The famine that has befallen us has not been caused by an external source; it was created by our own doing. And just as we created it, we can undo it. We are powerful beyond belief. Our thoughts become our words which become our actions. We have nothing to lose by shifting our thoughts again to those of abundance, joy and love. Let our words be those of kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Let our actions reflect our words through acts of sharing, generosity and support and let those actions be motivated by love and not by fear. Again I say, we have nothing to lose by doing things differently for if we do not, all is surely already lost.”
As Nelson’s words sank into the minds and hearts of the other reef reps, the weight of the sea world lifted. They all immediately looked lighter, brighter, younger and healthier. The group agreed to take Nelson’s words and ideas back to their respective reefs.
Two days later all of the reef reps showed up to their agreed meeting place with loads of food to exchange – only Mrs. Barracuda showed up with less. Mrs. Barracuda explained that it was very difficult to convince Governor Donald to begin sharing again and because he was so feared in the West it was difficult for her to gain support from the other citizens.
Despite the lack of support, Mrs. Barracuda’s family and a few of her close friends offered to sacrifice all of their rations for the cause and though her offering was meager compared to the others, it was all they had to give. Everyone thanked Mrs. Barracuda for her efforts and for her courage to go with her heart although it was an unpopular decision and one for which she could surely be punished.
The group distributed the provisions equally and agreed to meet the following week as usual. The food and the act of sharing the food had had an immediate and profound effect on the health and well-being of the reef animals as well as on the water quality and clarity, and on the other sea life and plants.
Each of the reef reps was accompanied by a team when they met at the exchange the following week. The teams were necessary because when the reps had returned to their reefs the previous week with the first new set of reef rations, there was an outpouring of support to continue to share so each reef sent twice as much food as ever before – even Mrs. Barracuda had a team!
The Western reef’s inhabitants were overwhelmed with gratitude and humility when Mrs. Barracuda had showed up the week before with the donated rations from the other reefs. The acts of generosity and faith displayed by the other reefs overpowered the Western reef’s fears and concerns about Governor Donald’s punishments, threats and predictions; he was overruled and deposed shortly thereafter.
By the following week, all reefs were teeming with life and love once more and the sea returned to its clear, bright blue color. The sea plants bloomed and blossomed and all the sea creatures were healed and happy.