Two weeks ago I started a salt water fish tank. I have always wanted to do a fish tank but never had the opportunity – until now. Some of my staff, friends and myself have set up a huge fish tank in my office. It is  75 gallons and after much work over the last couple of weeks I have the salt water at a pretty good mixture, added a protein skimmer to make the water pure, put in some great lava rocks to make it look interesting and have four small but nice looking fish. The tank has become a very nice edition to the Community Life office.

But what I did not realize about having fish is that I do not just have cool specimans tooling around and eating every little bit – what we actually have done is set up a little community. It is a community with a pecking order, habits, and rules. It has been a great surprise to realize that this little water world could actually teach our office some interesting lessons about community.

Take for example Bill the Domino. We started last week by buying two Chromas and a Black Domino Damesel. I bought them in the store because they looked cool and the main reason for having a salt water tank is the cool factor – you want cool looking water with really colorful funky fish. So even though the pet store worker warned me I bought the Domino that my son Siah quickly named “Bill”. The introduction into the tank went great – that is a whole other post – because the introduction process of a fish to a new tank gives a great picture of “transition” .

The transition went well and for the first two days the three fish – Bill, George and Gracie (named after the great Vaudeville stars) swam around seemingly pretty happy. Except for one interesting thing – Bill, the bigger fish of a different kind, stayed on one side of the tank beside a little cave I created and George and Gracie (both Chromas) stayed on the other end. After about five days they all swam the tank but were never in the same location. Then came the weekend – and when I came in to feed them on Sunday I noticed that George and Gracie were hiding in the small piece of coral in the center of the tank while Bill was happily swimming all over. This worried me a bit – “were the fish sick?”  So I made some checks on the water. I even reached in and messed with the coral to get them to come out, which they did but then went right back in.

Monday told the story as we noticed George and Gracie hid in the coral as Bill swam around and around it. He was harrassing the Chromas. The tank had been taken over by Bill the Domino. He was the only one swimming, eating and enjoying this cool world that I set up. So armed with complete power I made the decision to remove Bill from this little world. And no I did not flush him – I took him back to the pet store and was given credit to buy two more Chromas. Soon after I introducded the new Chromas to the water world Bill and Gracie slowly came out of their hiding place. They would swim out – look around – and swim back in. This took place constantly over the first day – three days later all four are happily schooling around and there is peace in the tank.

But Bill the Domino has got me thinking about community. Actually there are several things bouncing around my head but I will focus on one, which is how one fish could impact the entire tank in such a way to destroy community. I do not think Bill was biting the other fish. But his presence created great tension and fear in the tank. You know one person can do the same thing to any community – a neighborhood, a church, a workplace or a team. Sometimes it is the difficult actions and attitudes of one that can cause unrest in some and cause others to act badly. And once the unrest starts in the community it impacts everyone.

So I guess I am thinking today mostly about not being like Bill the Domino in my communities. I do not want to be the person that causes unrest and chaos around me. I want to be more like Jill and Bill (Siah wanted a fish named Bill in the tank) the Chromas who have entered the tank and helped stabilize it and create a pretty happy space. I want to be the person that impacts community for health, happiness and wholeness. The way we conduct ourselves, the attitudes we have, the way we treat others, and the amount of grace we have for others’ mistakes will impact those around us in ways that we do not even realize.

Deciding to make a splash with our life can be good or bad. A bad splash will ripple on others just like a good one. It is in who we decide to be and the type of difference we decide to make. Let’s all jump high and make huge splashes that ripple on all those around us – but let’s make good ones that bring life, hope and fun.