One of my favourite pastimes is fishing. I love to get out on my own or with a couple of mates and spend a few hours trying to out-smart an animal with a brain the size of a pea.
Sometimes I win, and come home with something for dinner, and other times I prefer to focus just on ‘being in the great outdoors’ as the win, rather than the fact that I didn’t actually catch anything.
For me, fly fishing for trout is the ultimate sport. It requires stealthlike skills and perfect presentation of the correct fly on the water in order to catch the prize fish.
Some time ago I headed down to the Snowy Mountains with Mr Carden and some friends. We fished together in the pristine Swampy Plains River. We didn’t see another human being for days as we waded up the crystal clear waters in search of a prize trophy fish.
I was completely focussed on my goal, constantly surveying the waters ahead, keeping a watchful eye out for an elusive fish in a feeding lane just waiting to rise to my fly. And then I saw it. A beautiful brown trout just lying in wait on the other side of a large rock jutting up out of the water, a perfect vantage point for me to catch the fish from.
Little did I know that Mr Carden, who was on the other side of the river, was eyeing off a two-foot-long water rat which happened to be swimming towards that same rock from the other side.
At the exact moment I raised my head above the rock to view the fish, the water rat popped up and we met each other face to face.
The rat and I both screamed, getting a shock that neither of us were expecting. We each jumped about four feet in the air, fell over backwards and scared the trophy fish away, never to be seen again. As I looked over at Mr Carden searching for support or possibly a hand up out of the water, all I saw was him laughing in hysterics probably wishing he had filmed the drama which had unfolded in front of him.
Embarrassed that I was spooked by a water rat, I have kept this story under wraps. But now I am ready to break my silence and discuss what should have happened.
You see I was 100% focussed on the task in front of me. I had eyes for that fish and nothing else. I knew exactly what I had to do to outsmart the creature and ultimately serve it up for dinner.
What I actually needed was for Mr Carden to give me a warning. He had the bigger picture, or a better view of the whole situation from his side of the river. He had a good view of the fish, the rock, the water rat and me and he could see the whole comical situation play out.
For all of us, especially our students, life can be a bit like this at times. Our HSC students can be so focussed on their academic results that they forget to exercise and have some fun. Students involved in romantic relationships or crushes can neglect their long term friendships. Adults can be so focussed on their work that they don’t spend enough time with their family.
You can probably think of things or situations in your life that capture your attention, and it becomes difficult for someone else to help change your focus.
There is nothing wrong with being focussed. But what we need are others around us who can let us know when that focus is becoming unhealthy or dangerous.
At the start of the year there are a few questions that we should ask ourselves:
- Am I so focussed on my goals/work/self that I can’t see life happening all around me?
- Do I have people around me that I can trust?
- Do those people know that they can tell me when danger is ahead?
- When they tell me, will I be wise enough to listen?
- Am I seen as a trusted friend to others?
Proverbs 11:14 says: “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counsellors there is safety.”
At Cedars we have set up an environment that is abundant with counsellors. People who see the big picture and can let our students know if their focus is becoming unhealthy. We have Mentor Teachers for our senior students as they face the challenge of their HSC. We have a School Psychologist to assist them when things are tough. Our Chaplain is fantastic at listening to and helping to refocus our young people. Our Careers Advisor is at the ready when students need to plan for life after school. There are Year Advisors, Pastoral Care Teachers and Homeroom Teachers. We have 90 staff, teaching and otherwise who are all here to see our students succeed not only in school but in life. Our parents, churches and wider community are all here to help and each of us have a role to play.
So let me encourage you to think about what you are focussing on this year, listen to wise counsel and be a wise counsellor to others. And for goodness sake don’t be like my friend, Mr Carden who said nothing and then laughed at the disaster which followed.
PS – I have since forgiven him.