Expanding your world, one new perspective at a time Print
Youth Column
Written by Erick Rommel, Catholic News Service   
Thursday, Jul. 03, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Once there was a goldfish who lived in a giant fishbowl. He happily swam around and all of the other fish loved him.

One day, a net entered the fishbowl and scooped the goldfish. While flopping around in the net, the goldfish saw a new world beyond the boundaries he knew.

Soon after, the fish returned to the fishbowl. While he still swam, he was no longer happy and the other fish asked why.

"Once I swam with joy because I knew where I belonged," he explained. "Now, I've seen outside the fishbowl and I know the world is far larger than what I imagined. What if everything out there is better than what I have now and I'm missing it?"

The other fish, having never left the fishbowl, didn't understand what he meant and left the goldfish to swim alone.

When that goldfish had a limited view of his world, he was happy. When he learned there was more to see, he wasn't excited by what he'd discovered. He was sad because of what he was missing.

All of us are like the goldfish. We have a limited view of the world around us. When we see something different, our perspective changes and it's up to us to decide what we do with that new knowledge. Do we give thanks for what we have, or do we worry about what we don't?

There's a similar story. It's about a boy and his father. Their family had a lot of money, and both had all they thought they needed and more. The father wanted to teach his son that not everyone was as lucky, so he sent his son to spend a week living with a family of farmers who were poor.

After the week ended, the father asked the son what he had learned. "We have a pool with walls to keep the water in," he explained. "They have a stream where the water never ends. We have a fence to separate us from our neighbors. They have fields as far as you can see. We buy our food, they grow theirs. We pay people to serve us, they provide service to others."

Then the boy demonstrated his understanding that not all wealth is financial. "Thanks, dad, for showing me how poor we are," he said to his father.

Seeing the world from a different perspective is a valuable experience. Although what we see is the same, each person interprets things differently.

The boy and his father saw the same farm and the same crops, except the boy saw the wonder and the father saw the difficulties. Neither is correct, nor incorrect. It's all a matter of perspective.

Think back to the goldfish. He learned that there was more beyond the fishbowl, and the knowledge caused him pain. He became so frustrated by what he was missing that he forgot to continue enjoying what he had.

Discovering the world beyond our comfort zone, our fishbowl, is exciting but also a little scary. What if we start questioning what we believe to be true? Fear of the unknown is not an excuse to hide from knowledge. If belief can't handle scrutiny, it wasn't strong to begin with.

Increasing your perspective and knowledge is like being seated at the world's biggest all-you-can-eat buffet. Sampling new food doesn't lessen the enjoyment of your old favorites. Combining what you already enjoy with an increased palate gives you a greater set of delicious choices.

Never pass on the opportunity to experience something new. The world outside your fishbowl is filled with never-ending vistas waiting to be explored.

Erick Rommel is head staff writer for The Catholic Spirit in the Diocese of Metuchen, N.J. His column is syndicated through Catholic News Service.


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