The Fish and the Dam

Apr 01, 2016

The Fish and the Dam


Flash of Silver…the leap that changed my world
Question #16
Rite of Passage Six –Early Tumult–
(1950-1951) Age 16-17 years old


The ‘law of unintended consequences’ -clean hydroelectric power and its collateral damage to fish. Are such ‘developments’ eventually going to destroy life itself?


bb3da129-706f-4468-b595-db8cd15b52d1Sketch credit: Sandy Silverthorne

One would think that the abuse I experienced at my early school was a…tumult! The kind of sudden dislocation that matched the experience I imagined for the salmon going through a hydroelectric dam.
It turns out that I needed to wait for such an unsettling moment, one that would ‘snap at my heels’ for decades to come.

I discovered, whilst serving as a ‘busboy’ in the dining room, that I was seen as part of the ‘servant class’. As a busboy (or commis waiter) I could not converse with the customers. I was to be seen (perhaps not even that!) and never heard.

What was so difficult for me at 15 years old was that my father’s customers were my friend’s parents. I was from downstairs and they were upstairs. I was from a different class and I tumbled endlessly through that torrent of attitude (mostly mine) until I reached forty.

It isn’t only people who suffer at being seen to be lesser beings; it’s also nature itself that is degraded by the ever-present drive for commercial success that treads indifferently upon sensitive soil or waters en route to their personal acquisition of…stuff and/or status. Does the hot pursuit of money always leave wreckage in its path?

So…what about now?

I live these days quite close to the Elwah River in Washington State (USA) and am completely overjoyed by the changes that have been made in its tumultuous journey to the sea.

Two hydroelectric dams have been removed and with that has come the restoration of its eco-system that had been starved of its nutrient-rich salmon population for 100 years.

Nature has reclaimed the malnourished banks and wildlife of all kinds, the salmon are back and growing in numbers.

I have also found that I too have set aside my preoccupation with financial ‘success’ and I am no longer concerned about being seen as a ‘servant’. I love to be known as such and no longer hide my ‘lower status’ under brand named products and places that declared that I was a celebrity ‘winner’.

So many years, such a long hard journey…and now, such a peaceful acceptance in the midst of great people…who also serve.

P.S This week I read Treena’s poem Saga of Two Trees


  1. Margie Says: 10:22 pm

    Growing up, particularly during my high school years, I felt inferior and I felt I was a member of the “lesser beings of the servant class”. Although my parents were financially well off, they did not provide me and my brothers with nice wardrobes, etc.This did not help my self esteem because, in my mind, how one dressed for school was a barometer for the degree of popularity one had. And, because I felt inferior, I just knew nobody liked me. I became more and more withdrawn. I remember a classmate driving me home one day from school; she took one look at the nice place where I lived and said,”YOU live HERE? Anyway, fast forward almost 45 years later to a high school class reunion. After remarking to several former classmates that I was surprised they remembered me, I was told that back in high school, I was perceived as conceited! So, the lesson here is that my self image of a “lesser being” was all in my head. Perhaps, Graham, you were not really perceived by others as a lesser being. Perhaps it was only your self perception.

  2. Karl Says: 2:38 pm

    I think as Christians in the Western World or for that matter in the influence of the wealthy nations that include many of the countries around the globe we have for decades fallen prey to the deception of the “Health and Wellness Gospel” promoted by those who believe that wealth and health is somehow deserved and if we pray hard enough it will always come to us as Gods blessing.We also sacrificed our environment Gods creation for the sake of progress along with those who suffer in this world.Gods call to us has always been clear,Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.We are called to serve and give sacrificially without hesitation and we need to be stewards of his Creation.We sang a nice song in church today that says “Be more heart and less attack,be the wheel not the track”God bless

  3. Lynn Severance Says: 7:56 pm

    “Are such developments eventually going to destroy life itself?”

    Although Graham’s focus was the “progress” affecting the life of fish, we need but look around at all the environmental sacred spaces that are being “clear cut” or “dug up” to build more malls and promote the treadmill cluttered fast track life inside of them.

    What is to become of our land and what is needed to sustain it and the life – true life – we need. Technology is wonderful and has its place but landfills are seeing the contents of consumerism this generation (and sadly some from my own and the generation in-between) creates getting rid of the “old” which may be working fine so the newest and most “fashionable” can be bought. Does it truly bring about “status ranking” among peers (whatever their ages)? Perhaps “downstairs” is not such a hollow space when it comes to serving what best will sustain our environmental lands (and waters) as well as our true personal identities. We can help nurture others as we serve out of what we have been given – not what is observed in what we own. It is the passion God has placed in our souls with his nudge to serve with the talents He has given that will make all the difference to us and to those who come into our path whom we choose to serve.

    I see this as the conclusion Graham has reached over some years that brought about the awareness. May it be one we each come to know in our own lives.

  4. Hope Says: 4:12 pm

    Graham, I resonate with your words. My husband and I have always been seen as the “servant” class by some family members . Several years ago we were judged as being ineffective as parents. We did not provide our children with multiple experiences and opportunities : Health club memberships, swim lessons, sports teams, Boy Scouts, summer camp, and other items were on the list . It was painful and I was in a constant state of praying that God would fill my heart with forgiveness, grace, and peace. Ultimately we found a point of peace as we realized our worth as in Christ and not in net worth, possessions, or activities.

    I wrote them a letter which read, in part part, “I am PROUD to say that Larry has worked long and hard to provide for this family for the past 13 years that I have been at home with the boys. I am PROUD to say that we have lived with abundance and contentment, well within our income and had money left over each and every year. This is a feat that most Americans have yet to perfect. We have always had a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs, and clothes on our backs. I have NEVER had occasion to question his honesty or faithfulness. He has been an exemplary partner and friend. HE has mentored our boys into young men of integrity, honesty, and great kindness – who all love the Lord with their whole hearts. It is HE who has taught them to forgive and allow grace for the imperfections of others…. I think it does bear stating that we take our God-given task of parenting very seriously. We ARE parenting with a plan and a purpose.”

    My husband is a man who walks in peace, knows who he is in God’s eyes, and teaches our children to live in an attitude of humility. I am truly blessed. Because of the situation in which we had been placed, we were renewed and reminded of God’s faithfulness, provision, and grace in our lives and the lives of our children.

  5. Dianne Says: 9:12 am

    congrats on finding your peace, what a wonderful feeling

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