I just got back from seeing the movie Captain Phillips. I’d recommend seeing it, but that’s not why I’m writing this blog.
[Caution: Minor spoilers ahead] Towards the beginning of the movie, Captain Phillips (played by Tom Hanks) senses that his cargo ship is being threatened. He radios a UKMTO officer to warn them that there are two skiffs (small boats) hot on their tail; a potential piracy situation. The officer reassures Phillips “Chances are they’re just fishermen.” Phillips replies “They’re not here to fish.”
Phillps was right in his presumption and the group of Somalian pirates eventually takes over the ship. After a hostile half hour, the men take Captain Phillips hostage onto a separate lifeboat. Much of the movie is spent in this tense setting. The leader of the pirates, a young guy named Muse, eventually reveals that he is indeed a former fisherman.
There’s one scene towards the middle of the movie where the dehydrated and hungry pirates begin to lose their cool. Muse puts a gun to Phillips’ head and it looks pretty promising that he will pull the trigger. As he’s about to kill the Captain and the music reaches its climax, Phillips yells “You’re not just a fisherman!” Muse slowly lowers his gun and gets back to work.
Right then, I knew I had a blog post.
I immediately thought of a scene from the TV show LOST. A character named Jin was born and raised by his father in a small fishing village from South Korea. When Jin eventually meets a beautiful young lady named Sun, he decides that she is the one. Through conversation, he finds out that Sun is none other than the sole daughter of the CEO of a major industry.
When it comes time to tell Sun about his childhood, Jin decides to lie and tells her that his father had died when he was a young boy. In reality, he was ashamed. He would rather lie and tell her that his father was dead than to reveal that he was the son of a fisherman. Just a fisherman.
Bear with me for one more example. I can’t help but think about Peter, one of the apostles of Jesus. When Jesus began to call his apostles, he found Peter on the shore line. “Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (called Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me. I will make you fishers of men!’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.”
Now we know Peter certainly wasn’t perfect. On numerous occasions he doubted and denied our Lord. Yet at one point Jesus says the following to Peter: “And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Catholics believe that this is what makes Peter the first pope of the Catholic Church. And just who exactly was this man? Just a fisherman.
I bring all this up to make the following point.
Fishermen clearly have it rough. Almost every society from almost every generation has looked down on the fishing industry in comparison to other occupations.
Now not many people I know are fishermen, but many people I know degrade themselves as though they were fishermen. Have you heard someone else say one of these things, or have you caught yourself saying this at one point: “I’m just a custodian.” “I’m just a food service worker.” “I’m just a cashier.” “I’m just a ______.”
No, you’re not. You have the ability to decide your own self-worth. Your profession, though it contributes to your identity, does not have to be who you are. Those who say things like “I’m just a fisherman” often aren’t just talking about their career, rather they are referring to themselves as a human being. Who they are is “just a fisherman” as opposed to what they do.
What would you say Mother Teresa’s occupation was? A nun? Just a nun? Mother Teresa did not make millions of dollars. She did not “make it big” by today’s standards. She worked with the poorest of the poor almost her whole life. She worked with people who would have been seen as even lower than fishermen. Yet she went about her work diligently and without shame.
Your work, whatever it may be, does not have to define who you are. If you are ashamed or embarrassed of your occupation, just think about Peter or Mother Teresa. Your place of employment is only one of the many pieces of your identity. You decide your own self-worth.
Mother Teresa addresses this in the following quotes:
“Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love.”
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”