This story has nothing to do with fish. Bear with me.

I’m going to tell you one of my favorite stories about the power of a positive attitude. But in true ‘me’ fashion, I have to tell you a separate story first.

When I was 20/21, I worked at a camp in the summers. Specifically Boy Scout Camp. It was awesome. I was the Waterfront Director (canoeing and rowing), and later the Aquatics Director (Swimming, Lifesaving, BSA Lifeguard). I loved it. I got to work with a great group of people and got to help train young scouts in how to not die in the wilderness. The staff also doubled as court jesters to keep the young hooligans entertained. It is important to keep a group of a couple hundred boys between 11-17 focused and happy. 10/10 recommend to reduce chaos.

Camp songs are an essential part of camp. No matter where you went to camp (or worked at camp), you learned songs. They’re silly and fun and to this day I occasionally break out into one of the old dittys. Of course, when staff are alone, those songs frequently get re-written to be wildly inappropriate. That’s part of the fun of camp staff. Also hypothetically accidentally broadcast to the whole camp because of a handheld radio incident. But that was Jim’s fault, not mine. Hypothetically.

The song I need to tell you about today is the Fishing Song. I could do a video with the actions, but I won’t. Not because of any dignity related issues (seriously, not a problem), but because it would take more energy than I have this morning to figure out how to do that.

Here’s the lyrics (must be sung with great gusto):

Have you ever gone fishing on a bright sunny day?

With all the little fishys swimming up and down the bay.

With you hands in your pockets and your pockets in your pants.

All the little fishys doing the hoochy-coochy dance.

Da-da-duh-da-da. Da-Da-Duh-Da. DA-DA-Duh-DA-DA, DA-DA-Duh-DA.

With your hands in your pockets and your pockets in your pants.

All the little fishys doing the hoochy-coochy dance.

I have no idea who wrote this. But that person is clearly a creative genius.

Ok. now you know about the song. Now, the camp I worked at was beautiful. The ranger and a ton of volunteers kept the whole place clean and maintained. During camp season, however, lets just say we put a little extra strain on the ecosystem. Adding 300-500 people a week (150-300 of which are teenage boys) will do that. The whole staff pitched in at the beginning and end of camp to make sure everything was clean and well-maintained (it was part of the job – to be perfectly honest we weren’t necessarily doing it just because we loved the camp). There was also a list of things that needed to be done every Saturday when the troops left. I mostly didn’t do any of that because I was a ‘responsible adult’ and also was required to vacuum out the pool with a vacuum that weighed approximately 1700 pounds.

Which leads me to my actual story. One of the responsibilities of the staff was to check the campsites and clean out the latrine pits.

You know what a latrine is, right?

Sometimes, a latrine is also called a pit toilet. Not to be confused with a Sarlacc-Pit toilet. . . .

Note to my husband: Yes, I am trying to figure out how to get one of these.

So, a latrine is basically a toilet seat on top of a concrete stump with a whole in the middle, leading to a pit underground.

Can anyone spot the difference between a and b? No, seriously – can you? Its bugging me.

So your poops fall down into the pit and eventually someone pumps out the whole thing. If you do this small-scale when you’re camping you just bury your hole.

The latrines at our camp were actually pretty decent. There were stalls for privacy, and running water to wash your hands. And functioning toilet seats.

Why are the toilet seats important? Because otherwise the wildlife go exploring, and its kinda yucky down there. Also a pit. So they die.

But, more important to the point of this story, kids are the worst sometimes and throw garbage down into the pits. This is a problem because the pits are designed for pees and poops and papers, and that’s it.

So, someone’s job every week was to ‘fish’ the latrine pits. We had a long pole with a hook, and a long pole with a cup. With those, you could pretty much collect whatever garbage was down there.

To absolutely no one’s surprise, this was not a popular job. Typically we would foist it off on a younger staffer because it was fun and we could. I say we, but I wasn’t really involved. I always knew I was headed down to the pool to wrestle the giant vacuum.

Then, one Saturday, one of the staffers came to collect the hook and cup. He was about 18 – younger than us ‘old people’ who were 21, but older than the junior staffers. He could have passed on the job, but he didn’t. He propped the poles over his shoulder and walked out the door, singing.

And what was he singing? The damn FISHING SONG. Scroll back up and read it again. It was, to this day, one of the most beautiful things I have every seen in my life. It might sound minor – but it was quite literally life changing.

At that moment, I realized something. He was voluntarily doing one of the icky jobs. And instead of complaining about it or dreading it, he was staying positive. I guarantee that job sucked a lot less that day.

I have used that image and that thought 1000 times since that day. Its gotten me through a lot of tasks that could be seen as unpleasant. Its reminded me to laugh when something unexpected makes a mess of things.

I’ve said before that positive thinking isn’t about ignoring the negative. Its about changing how you see the negative. Sometimes its about EMBRACING THE NEGATIVE. Life has ups and downs. Some of those downs are huge, and sometimes the positives to find are tiny in comparison. Sometimes all we can manage is a watery chuckle in the midst of our tears. If you can’t see any positive in a situation – that is ok. Just breathe and do the next thing and get through it. Some situations are like that. Sometimes we only see the positives (like that friend who made us laugh when we didn’t think we ever would again) looking back.

Sometimes the only positive I can find in situations is that it has made me a lot more compassionate. Suffering tends to open the eyes. So, if by dealing with the hard stuff, I have become kinder and more able to help others, I’ll take it. If its taught me that sometimes I just need to breathe and let the world take care of itself because its not my job to fix everything, I’ll take it.

That day, it taught me that singing a jaunty little tune doesn’t make the poo go away. It doesn’t make it stink less. But maybe it makes you notice enough other things that you don’t mind so much.

Take care,


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