A Labor Day Parable

By Kate Riley September 5, 2011

I was reading through the links in the ‘Favorite Things About My Town’ link party, and came across this story.  I heard this many years ago and couldn’t find it anywhere online until Gina’s post and was so happy to stumble upon it again.  I think a lot about where I spend my time, and where I focus my energy.  The older I get, I find I value the “stuff” less and simple living much more.  No doubt some of you have heard this story before, but I thought Labor Day was a great day to share this favorite.    

The Tourist and the Mexican Fisherman

author unknown

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village.  An American tourist got out and complimented the local Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish, then asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long,” answered the Mexican.

“But then, why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?” asked the American.

fishing boat


The fisherman explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.

The American tourist asked,

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The fisherman replied,

“I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American interrupted,

“I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should spend more time fishing, and with the proceeds you buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant. You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise.”

“How long would that take?” asked the Mexican.

“15 perhaps 20 years,” replied the American.

“But what then, señor?”

“Afterwards? That’s when it gets really interesting,” answered the American, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions, señor?  Then what?”

The American said slowly,

“Then, you would retire!  Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”

I love the moral of this story!  Happiness is not found in all the “stuff” but is found in those moments spent with our loved ones enjoying the simplest pleasures in life.  Today, I am celebrating my 12 year wedding anniversary!  Today, I am sleeping late, playing with my kids, and strolling through the streets in the evening sipping wine and listening to music with my groom.  Wishing you all a blissful day filled with simple pleasures.


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  1. What a great story! We’re celebrating our 19th anniversary today too, and enjoying a day of relaxing with our family. Happy anniversary to you!

  2. Kate – We share an anniversary! Today is 30 years with my groom. Some of those years I wasn’t sure we would stay together, and usually it was when I lost sight of the moral of this story. I am thankful for our years together, our children who love us and each other, and a home where we can be together. We usually spend our anniversary in the Sonoma area, but with our son’s wedding this year we had to delay our celebration. Please enjoy the area and your day enough for both of us! Kim

  3. I heard this lovely story a long time ago and the moral has always stayed with me although sometimes we all seem to need a little “reminder” about the truly valuable things in life. Thanks for posting the parable and for providing that little “reminder”! I’ll be spending the rest of my Labor Day with family appreciating the simple pleasures of life!

  4. Happy Anniversay Kate + Hubby!!!What a great stroy and message. I’ve been married 30 years and would not change anything; the ups, the downs, nothing. It’s all part of building a good marriage and defining what is important. I love that you spend time and cherish your kiddies, it goes so fast. My son is in college and it happened in a blink of an eye.

    Emyoy your day, all 24 hoours of it! :-)

  5. Thanks, Kate, for this great story and it’s message…. how easy it is in this world of “plenty” and the myriad messages we receive daily that we need to acquire more……to miss the simple fact-we already have everything we need if we have love! Forty three years, and still counting the miracles here…..
    Enjoy all your blessings today as your celebrate another year together, and your precious family.

  6. Happy Anniversary!

    I love this story. We Americans “live to work” instead of “work to live”- as the ole saying goes. This work ethic is what makes us the greatest nation on earth.

    However, we tend to miss the simple moments. The “blessed” moments with family and friends, which cannot ever compare to the material things in life.

    We do need time to sit back and “smell the roses” and make a mental image of the moments. When our lives suffer set-backs, we can pull up those images to comfort us. No one and no incident can take those images away from us.

    We should do this next week, on 9/11.

  7. We share an anniversary! Ours is 30 years today! Thanks for the reminder on what is truly important and enjoy your day!

  8. Happy Anniversary and what a lovely story to share – we can all learn a little from the fisherman in taking time to enjoy what we have right now, at this moment!

  9. That is such a FABULOUS story! Thanks so much for sharing. Hope you had a great anniversary just enjoying life.

  10. Kate- I couldn’t agree more with you! When I read this story, I realized that we need to stop worrying about designing our houses- and start designing our LIVES! We all should strive to live where we want to live, find work that we love and most of all, spend our days ENJOYING our family and friends…nothing could be more important. The older I get, the more I want to simplify my life and focus on the things that really matter! Thanks for the reminder…

  11. I have always loved that story too. Not only does it teach you to enjoy life, but to realize that your way of life may not be what someone else needs.

  12. Yes the whole “older is wiser” thing is so true. I am now 53 and so sure of what i like, what I want from life and am the happiest I have ever been. Today is our 30th anniversary and I couldn’t ask for more in my life – I have a great husband, great kids, fulfillment in my life and don’t need a bunch of stuff to define me. If only we didn’t have to wait so long to figure this all out!

  13. Happy anniversary! Amazing I was having this exact conversation with my son. He wanted to know why I don’t want to grow my business and I told him I prefer more time with my family than more money in my bank.

  14. It’s a great story! I think I heard it once as a sermon illustration at church. :) Congratulations on 12 years! I will be celebrating 3 years tomorrow, looking forward to many more!

  15. Hi!,what a wonderful story! Happy anniversary!My husband and I have reached 25 years and sometimes we wonder how did time pass so “fast”!Best wishes from Italy.I like reading your blog!

  16. Thank you for the reminder! I have heard this before, but forgot about it…I love your blog and think you are so very talented!! Have a happy anniversary as well! : )

  17. What a wonderful parable! I had never heard it before now…love it!

    I hope you and your groom had a wonder filled anniversary.

    Clorissa :)

  18. Wise words, and poignant story. May everyone find their bliss, and arrange their lives to lead them in that direction, everyday. Happy Anniversary Kate! May life’s simple pleasures be with you always.

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