It’s a Fish Story

(We have had so many compliments on our fish tank, that we decided to offer another perspective on how we got it! Many of you have read Walter’s take on the installation and purpose of our fish tank, so it’s time to hear Kathy’s thoughts on it!)

Well, a fish tank story.  If you really want to know, it’s a love story.  It began as a sad story last March when our grandson, Gregory, lost his 51-year-old father to the flu. It was sudden and shocking to all his family. It was tragic, and without faith it would have been unbearable.  A while later, Gregory asked us if we would pick up furniture and stuff at his father’s apartment and donate it to the LittleStore. When we went there, one of things available was his Dad’s old fish tank. Walter thought not to take the fish tank – it was in rough shape and he wasn’t sure it even worked.  He said “No thanks,” then felt a tug at his sleeve. Gregory said to him, “That’s my Daddy’s fish tank.” “Ok, we can take that,” Walter replied. He brought it back to the LittleStore and put it in the shed until he could decide what to do with it. When yard sale season began, it got sort of buried by yard sale boxes and there it sat until September, when yard sale season was winding down and the back of the shed became visible again.

Walter again wondered what to do with the fish tank.  He decided to bring it into the LittleStore and it fit nicely in a wall space facing the front counter.  He thought that we might be able to keep in at the Little Store for Gregory and a lot of other children to see.  But then, he wasn’t sure it worked and we didn’t know how to fix it or take care of it.

So once yard sale season stopped, Christmas season started for us – the very next week in fact, which left little time for pondering the fate of the fish tank.  One of the couples who came to volunteer for taking Christmas applications was Karen and Rick Schwank of Auburn. Rick wasn’t a fan of data entry work, so he started to help test electric donations to weed out those that didn’t work.  Walter asked him, kind of a side comment, “Do you know anyone who knows about fish tanks?” “I do! I know everything about fish tanks, I have two salt water tanks in my house!” came the reply. Walter asked him to look at the fish tank and he knew immediately what he was looking at.  He explained that it was a saltwater tank, difficult to maintain and not really optimum for a place like the LittleStore. He started to give Walter instructions about converting it to a freshwater tank. Flush it all out, get new parts for this or that – Rick could see that it was becoming way too complicated.  He decided to take this on himself. He brought the tank home, promising to bring it back when he had it cleaned out.

When he did bring it back, it was like a different tank.  All cleaned out, flushed out, it looked pretty good in the LittleStore.  Rick promised to come back again to fill it. As it happened, on the day he and his son came back to fill the tank with water, Gregory and his mother were volunteering for the Christmas program.  That’s when they found out what was happening and what the Schwank family was doing. It was quite a touching encounter, the kind that makes people instantly and forever connected – grace-filled. Rick made plans to contact Gregory so they could go out shopping for fish together.   Just as an aside, I asked Gregory, “Is this ok Gregory?” I wanted to make sure he was ok with it. His reply, “It’s totally more than ok!”

It was just before Christmas when Rick, Karen and their son returned with Gregory and Liz.  They inserted all the fish and fish paraphernalia into the tank. Gregory’s shirt then was wet up to his elbows but he was happy.  He named all the fish (Riley, Chuck, Big Orange, Tiger, Taxi, Sir Glows a Lot) and we all got instructions about how to care for them.  Rick said he would return to check on everything and help us if we have questions or problems.

We’ve had great interest in the fish tank, our customers love it,  the children love it. A labor of love from all directions.