Daily Archives: October 16, 2011

Speaking for Fish

I had a recent good experience with the power of words to accomplish good things.  Walking thru a shop recently we just happened to pass the fish section and found widespread death and neglect.  Fish were floating in all states of decomposition, some still frantically trying to breathe. 

We couldn’t find a store manager available so when we got home I went on their website and wrote a letter to the manager explaining the situation.  Next day we went back and visited the fish section again.  All the tanks were clean, and the fish that remained looked much happier. 

Later that night we received a call from the manager thanking us for the letter.  He explained that there had been major equipment failure in the tanks, but no one had noticed until he received the email.  Because I hadn’t attacked him in the letter, he didn’t have to be defensive.  He was told there was a problem, he fixed it and we could both move on.

How many times have I seen something I thought was wrong but didn’t say anything?  Sometimes I think it’s not my business, or somehow I’ll be inconvenienced.  This time all it took was a few simple paragraphs.  Whether it was equipment failure or neglect, the problem was solved and lives were improved.  The manager knows people are watching and holding his store accountable.

In approximately two paragraphs I was able to save lives and make them better.  Sure, they were only fish but I can’t help wondering how many paragraphs it would take to save people’s lives and make them better… and who is the manager to send them to?

Five star reviews, Amazon ranking and royalty checks are all awesome and I would be a liar if I said they didn’t motivate me.  Of all the things I have written in my life, however, those two paragraphs to a store manager may be the most important not because they were eloquent or won big rewards but because lives were changed for the better. 

I know they were just fish, but I hope I will always be aware of those around me that have no words for themself so I can lend them mine.  Voices muted by oppression, ignorance and fear cannot be silenced when there are writers willing to speak for them.  I hope that I can be that kind of writer.  Even for goldfish.