In the summer of 1905, on the shores of central California, the fishing town of Monterey, suffered a very great economic blow. Monterey is a picturesque community, 100 miles south of San Francisco. It is situated on the great Monterey Bay.
The Monterey Bay, gave to the city of Monterey all the bounty of the ocean. For decades Monterey fishermen brought back the fruit of the sea, the fish, that fed millions of people in America.
The backbone of this great fishery, and therefore of the economy in Monterey, was the annual catch of sardines.
These sardines were captured, brought to port, and then to Cannery Row – a row of fish canning operations lining the Monterey beach. There, of course, the sardines were packed into silver cans, wrapped in a red and black paper seal declaring them to be high-quality sardines from Monterey, California. They were then shipped throughout America and the world.
And the economy was good.
But, in the summer of 1905, something terrible happened. An economic disaster of unprecedented proportions happened to this bustling fishing town.
The disaster was this: the fishermen and their many boats, and many employees, simply over fished the sardine population. They did it to such a degree, that the sardines couldn’t reproduce their stock – and, suddenly, sardines simply disappeared from the fisherman’s nets! They were gone! And with them, were also, apparent to everyone, the good times for people in Monterey.
But – and this is a very important but – this was not the end of the story. A very great and ominous disaster had happened on their watch, but now something wondrous and hopeful, also took place on their watch.
Here is what, actually, happened: first, the people of Monterey and their churches, prayed. Now, whether you believe in prayer or not, that is secondary to the story. My duty is just to give hope and tell you how the story turned out, in actual history.
Most of the ship owners in Monterey doubled as their own ship captains. There were no big corporate fleets. It was mostly private fishermen who had built their fishing business to the level of having a ship or two, and going out daily and bringing the fish back. They worked hard at it, and they became better and better at what they did, and therefore became more and more successful.
But the sea had always helped them. Now that the sardines were gone, what next? What would happen to the economy, to the ship owners and captains, and to all the crews and their families?
The captains of the ships talked among themselves. As they talked, they told tales that they had heard long ago, about schools of great fish, that a Monterey fisherman and his ship and crew had once found.
But, these great fish, which were only known by the thin thread of perhaps a tall tale, were caught as far out as 200 miles from the shore! No Monterey fisherman and his crew, at least for decades, had gone beyond 20 miles!
No one ever dared to go that far! It had not yet entered the imagination of the people.
They had the vessels for it, and the crews. Now what they needed was some bold and intrepid captains, who would dare to go farther into deeper waters, than anyone ever had before.
And, in a true to life story, several believing captains, with their valiant ships and willing crews, set out to find out if the tales of these great fish had any truth to them.
They went fifty miles. Then eighty miles. Then over a hundred miles. But approximately one hundred and fifty miles out, they saw “boiling water” – a strange occurrence on the surface of the water that far out in the middle of the sea.
The captains and their crews, decided to fish these “boiling waters.” For their efforts, they began to pull in yellowfin tuna anywhere from 100 to 300 pounds! And there was no end to them!
Now, dear reader, understand that until this date in history, no one in the entire world had ever eaten tuna. Well, maybe some long ago sea captain and his crew had. But for the most part, tuna had never been known before. It had never been seen or eaten!
So, the intrepid sea captains and their fishermen returned home to Monterey with great good news – and a big load of great fish!
Think about it. Sardines were only 4 to 8 inches long, and now the fishermen replaced them with tuna that were 4-8 feet long! The sardines weighed a half-pound at best, and the tuna weighed up to three hundred pounds. In fact, later, as fishermen found the will to go farther, they caught bluefin tuna, that weighed up to 1500 pounds!
Thus, by being willing to go further than anyone had gone before and by choosing to act in new ways rather than just sit and suffer, although the economy went down with the sardines – now it went up with the tuna! Following what might have been just a tall story by an old salt, turned out to give the people of Monterey a true, and much greater, story. They introduced tuna and tuna fishing to the world. Their ships got bigger. Their crews got paid more. More tourists came to Monterey. The little bustling fishing didn’t go down with the sardines!
Somehow, the town, its people, and its economy all got a new lease on life. They grew. They prospered. And – they fed the whole world to a far greater degree.
In that summer day of 1905, when the sardine stock fell and the bottom dropped out of the sardine business, it shook everybody up. But, they said their prayers, decided to go further than ever before, chose to “seek a greater story” – and, however combined elements made it happen – tuna, much larger than sardines, and a tuna catch, much greater than the total sardine catch had ever achieved, was brought into the history, and to the palates, of the entire world.
The economy recovered and boomed.
My friends, could it be possible that right now, this very day, that even as you experience the loss of something you long felt secure and that you built your hopes on, just a little farther ahead, with a little willingness to keep your chin and morale up, exploring a little further, pursuing a greater, not lesser, story for you and yours, we might ourselves see our “sardines” not just gone, but our own kind of new, far greater, “tuna” right in front of us replacing our loss with something much better?
I believe that people with the American dream, don’t just get better dreams. They get a better story. It comes complete with the faith, the new vision, the will to try, the solid meat of the fish, the adventures, and the tale to tell all our children about.
The measure of something great is that greater things still come out of it.
Say your prayers, stoke the embers of your dreams and visions. Listen to wise stories. Make your minds and ships go further into the ocean of the Spirit – and I believe either you yourself, or some intrepid captains, are going to come back with the equivalent of boatloads of silver tuna in our time – together with directions how you can get a lot more of them.